THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Bank Of America 500 preview

Martin Truex does well on road courses. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for the Bank Of America 500. This race is a first for NASCAR as they have now configured Charlotte Motor Speedway into a “roval.” As most know, this is the first time in the sports history that they will a combined oval/road course.

This new layout features 17 turns including two chicanes in both the back stretch and at the exit of turn four. The decision to turn the track into a temporary road course was announced last year after many fans requested that the playoffs feature a road course of some sorts. With every change comes new challenges and concerns and  the major concern going into this race are the two chicanes as both are placed in an area where cars would be entering at a high rate of speed, and if not careful this may be a big factor come race time.

Aside from the layout change, the other major story of this race is that it is also the final race of the round of 16. For Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin, this is the last chance for them to move into the top 12. Of the four mentioned, Clint Bowyer would have the easiest road to get in seeing how he is only four points behind and has more playoff points than the three drivers behind him, so he should be the favorite to survive to the next round. Either way these four drivers should be the ones to watch come sunday.

With the season nearing its twilight, most of the offseason moves and rule changes  are beginning to round into form. Last week, Ryan Newman announced that he would move to Roush next season. One of the main factors into the switch was his engineering expertise he obtained from the University of Notre Dame and with Ford switching to the Mustang next year, car owner Jack Roush thinks that Ryan can really help improve their team's performance.

Another big topic of discussion was the proposed rules package regarding the cars. Earlier this year, NASCAR announced that it would tweak the spoiler on the back of the car and add a “restrictor plate” to curtail the cars from getting too far ahead, the test race was highly acclaimed and many fans stated that they wanted to see this package used in other circumstances. It would appear now there is a change of heart amongst NASCAR’s fan base as many have now threatened to “never watch the sport again” if they go through with the changes.

Me personally, I can see why NASCAR is making this move. If you have read any of my articles, I have been highly critical of the ignorance and arrogance of the leaders that run NASCAR but I think with these rules they truly believe this will make racing better. To some extent, it will. We will see cars closer together and there will be more opportunities for smaller or midpack teams like JTG-Daughtery or Richard Petty Motorsports to be in contention. Only time will tell what will become of these moves, but if we see the kind of racing we saw this year in the all-star race next season at tracks like Indianapolis, I assure you the sport will do OK.

Going into this week, making a prediction as to who will win is extremely difficult because this is the first time they have ever raced on this type of track. If I had to pick a favorite though, it would have to be Martin Truex Jr. Earlier in the season, Truex went on to win at Sonoma. one of the other three road courses on the schedule. Not only was he fast there but he also finished second at Watkins Glen as well. He has been excellent on road courses and this Sunday should be no different

The sleeper going into this week would be NASCAR’s road course specialist AJ Allmendinger. It has been no secret that 2018 has been a season to forget for Allmendinger, as he currently sits 24th in points and has only one top five, but this week he should be one of the drivers to watch. Besides Allmendinger took the first laps around this new track layout when it was announced last year. Last week, JTG Daugherty racing announced that Allmendinger would not be retained for the 2019 season leaving him without a ride, And I can’t think of a better way for Allmendinger to prove himself by going out and running well this Sunday. Look for him to be a major threat to run around the top 10 come Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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