THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire: Ambetter 301 Picks, preview

Chase Elliott recorded another win last weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The stars of the Cup Series heads to New England this weekend for the Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This track is precisely one mile in length with absolutely no banking. Because this track is so flat, it’s difficult to pass, so it’s important to have a good track position. One part of the racetrack that is pretty tricky is the bump on the entry of turn four. This could cause problems throughout the race.

Last week, Chase Elliott went on to win his third race of the season. He now becomes the winningest driver this season and appears to be the favorite to win the championship. Throughout the day, Chase easily had the fastest car as he led a race-high 96 laps. The biggest controversy of the race came on the last lap as Elliott threw a block on Corey Lajoie causing a crash and ending the race. Many people including myself were critical of Elliott’s move but after looking at it further, it looked like a racing deal.

Lajoie was the underdog and many people wanted to see him finally get that first career win, and he was right in the mix all the way down to the last lap. When interviewed at the end, Corey was very gracious about Chase and his decision to make the move. When asked, Lajoie responded, “I made my move and it didn’t work out, he made a good block.” It was good to see both drivers were able to come away and let bygones be bygones in the end.

Two drivers on the opposite end of the spectrum are Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin as they had yet another dust-up. In the closing laps, Chastain slid up the track in turn three and made contact with Hamlin, knocking him into a spin and collecting Brad Keselowski as well. As we all know, these two got together in St. Louis earlier this year. Before this year, the two also got together at Darlington in a Xfinity race back in 2020. All season, Denny has been on the receiving end of Ross Chastain’s aggressive driving style, and it’s becoming more and more of an issue.

While I enjoy Ross as a driver and have followed him since his debut in the truck series back in 2011 at IRP, he isn’t doing himself any favors. We have seen all the sacrifices that Ross has made to get here, he even raced for free back in 2019 in the Xfinity Series for Chip Ganassi. The talent is unmatched as he's having a career year, but if he wants to win the championship, he’s going to have to tone it down a notch. We have seen what damage a driver holding on to a grudge can do, look at Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano in 2015 for example. When Denny was interviewed you could tell how annoyed he was, and we’ve seen him retaliate before when he spun Brad Keselowski back in 2009 at Homestead.

Denny was also in the headlines off the racetrack this week as well. On Tuesday, Bob Pockrass dropped a bombshell on Twitter regarding his team and their driver lineup, as Tyler Reddick will move from RCR to 23XI in 2024. This sent massive shockwaves throughout the racing world. No one could have expected this. This announcement leaves an awkward gap year as he will remain at RCR for one more season. According to reports, car owner Richard Childress is livid with Reddick and his representation and their relationship is beyond repair. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next season and a half and where Reddick will drive when he gets to his new team.

To tie it all together, the driver I am picking to win this weekend is none other than Denny Hamlin. The veteran driver has been phenomenal at this track, with three wins and an average finish of 4.7 in the last four races. He’s clearly driving with a chip on his shoulder and is hungry for a win. It’s been a rather inconsistent season for him as he’s 19th in points, he is however in the playoffs due to his two victories at Richmond and Charlotte in the Coke 600. He is primed to go on a run and get back in the championship hunt, and it starts here this weekend at New Hampshire.

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This would be fun! Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

The NBA has announced a new wrinkle for its All-Star Game coming up Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City.

Instead of the Western Conference All-Stars vs. the Eastern Conference All-Stars, or even squads picked in advance by captains LeBron James and Steph Curry … this year’s rosters will be selected right before the game with the two leading vote-getters choosing sides like a playground pickup game.

That sounds like fun, but here’s an idea that might produce a more intriguing and competitive game, instead of the showboating, no defense, 3-point contest the All-Star Game has become.

How about U.S.-born players vs. international stars?

Now you’re talking about a real game, with only the legacy of basketball at stake. From the day when James Naismith hung a peach basket in a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA in 1891 through the next 100 years, Americans dominated basketball. But today the answer has to be “NO!” Or more specifically “non” or “nyet” or “nein” or “ochi” or dozens of other languages.

Isn’t it ironic that basketball, the only major sport with its origins in the U.S., has become the most international game?

Is it possible that a team comprised of foreign-born players could defeat LeBron, Steph and a squad of American superstars with sneaker contracts? Not only do I think it’s possible, I would put my $5 on it.

These would be the starting All-Star Game lineups based on the most recent fan voting.

For the international team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Joel Embiid (Camaroon), and Kyrie Irving (Australia).

(Note: Kyrie Irving was born in Australia but raised in the U.S. He went to St. Patrick High School in beautiful downtown Elizabeth, New Jersey.)

The starting five for the U.S. would be: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell.

Who ya got?

The last four Most Valuable Player awards have gone (two each) to the Greek Freak and Jokic from the international team. Two leading contenders for this year’s MVP are Doncic and Embiid, both international players.

The NBA had 120 international players representing 40 countries on team rosters at the start of this season, including impact players like Rudy Gobert (France), Buddy Hield (Bahamas), Jamal Murray (Canada), Deandre Ayton (Bahamas), Andrew Wiggins (Canada), and Al Horford (Dominican Republic).

Every team in the NBA has at least one foreign-born player. The Toronto Raptors have eight players born outside the U.S. Canada is the leading exporter to the NBA with 20 players, followed by Australia with 10.

The Rockets have four international players: Usman Garuba (Spain), Bruno Fernando (Angola), Alperen Sengun (Turkey) and everybody’s favorite Boban Marjanovic (Serbia).

Of course, Hakeem Olajuwon, the greatest Rocket in franchise history, was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Other former NBA All-Stars born outside the U.S. - Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Steve Nash (Canada), Pau Gasol (Spain), Tony Parker (France), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Dikembe Mutombo (Congo), Arvidas Sabonis (Lithuania), Toni Kukoc (Croatia), and Andrei Kirilenko (Russia).

And you might remember a rather tall center named Yao Ming from China.

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