THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 preview, picks
The Round of 8 kicks off this weekend at Texas as the championship battle continues on. This track is one groove 1.5 mile racetrack, it is extremely tough to pass here so restarts will be essential. If last season's race here is any indication, tire fall off won't play as much a factor, so we could see the possibility of two tires or gas-only pit stops at some point during the race.
Last week, Kyle Larson went on to his seventh victory of the season after battling back from a battery issue. While there were many obstacles for this team, Cliff Daniels and this team were able to continue to fix the issue and get back to the front. The dominant car of the day though was his teammate William Byron. In the closing stages, it looked like he was on his way to a win and would lock himself into the next round, but after contact with Tyler Reddick, Byron's chances seemed to be dashed. He did make a run towards the end, but there simply wasn't enough time for him to come back.
While there were plenty of battles for the lead between Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Byron and Kyle Larson. What everyone really paid attention to was Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott as their feud came to an ugly conclusion. On lap 56, Kevin Harvick decided it was time to even the score after their dust up at Bristol. Going into turn 8, Harvick jumped on the throttle and turned Chase into the wall. This gave the #9 major damage and appeared that it would end any chances of advancing but miraculously, Alan Gustafson and his crew were able to get the car in good enough condition to keep him on the racetrack. For a while, Elliott was limping around badly and appeared to be dead in the water but then his back bumper cover fell off, and everything changed. After catching a break with a debris caution, Elliott caught fire. He drove all the way back up into the top 20 right into Kevin Harvick's rearview mirror, then it happened. Going into Turn 1, Harvick missed turn one and slammed the wall head-on ending his day.
Easily this was the biggest topic of discussion in the NASCAR world. Who was at fault? Who overreacted? If you ask me, Kevin Harvick was completely out of line to go and make a move like that. I know he was upset about getting held up at Bristol, but never once did he get wrecked by Chase. And for him to come out here and potentially end someone's championship chances is disgraceful. Of all the active drivers in the sport, no one has logged as many laps as Harvick. He has been doing this for 20 years. For a champion of this sport to do something like that is embarrassing. There has been a pattern of this over the years though. He is known as a selfish racecar driver, granted a talented driver, but he will do whatever it takes to win. This crossed the line though, if it were my call, I would have suspended Harvick for at least two races as they did when Matt Kenseth did the same thing to Joey Logano at Martinsville in 2015.
Lost in all of the controversies, a driver who really impressed this week was Chris Buescher. He went on to score his first top-five of the season after coming home third. This team has really improved a lot this season and with the addition of Brad Keselowski, I think that we will see this team really break out into a playoff contender. Look for Buescher to only improve.
The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. The round of 12 was quiet for the two time champion. Although he seemed to be in a bit of jeopardy coming into the Roval, he really shined by winning a stage and finishing fourth. This type of racetrack is where he makes his hay. Besides, he is the defending winner here, so he can get around this track. With all the stats, the most important factor is where he will be starting as he rolls off fourth. If he can get to the lead, don't expect him to be easy to pass. Look for Kyle to capture his 3rd victory at Texas.