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).

 

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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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