THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Bojangles Southern 500 preview

Martin Truex's future is up in the air. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

After a one week vacation, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series is back! This weekend, we head to Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina for the annual Southern 500. This race is a major part of NASCAR’s history. Beginning in 1950, every Labor Day weekend, NASCAR would come to Darlington raceway for the Southern 500. Even though in 2004 the Southern 500 moniker and Labor Day date was dropped, both returned in 2015.

With the tradition seemingly back, NASCAR implemented a “throwback” theme. While it isn’t mandatory, most teams roll out a throwback paint scheme for a car from years past to honor the race track’s tradition. This theme makes it one of the most popular races of the season.  

Nicknamed “ The track too tough to tame,” Darlington is one of the oldest speedways on the circuit as it was built all the way back in 1949. One of it’s most unique features is its “egg shaped” layout. Back in 1948, when track designer Harold Brasington built it, he had to make the third and fourth turns more narrow in order not to intrude on a neighboring farmers Minnow Pond. This compromise by the track designer made the banking uneven, making it one of the hardest tracks in America to navigate. When it comes to Darlington, one of the biggest variables of this track is tire wear. Because of its unorthodox layout, this track is extremely tough on tires. Last season, Martin Truex Jr appeared to be on his way to victory until a flat tire with three laps remaining ended his chances and gave the victory to Denny Hamlin. Look for this to be a major factor come sunday.

It would appear that NASCAR “Silly Season” is in full swing. This is the part of the year where drivers across all three series announce where they will be racing next season. As mentioned last week, the first major domino to fall was 2004 champion Kurt Busch. While it has not been confirmed, it would appear that Busch is going to drive for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. This move appeared to open the flood gates as it was announced his spot at Stewart Haas racing was offered to other drivers including defending champion Martin Truex Jr. and the soon to be retiring Kasey Kahne. Not only was Busch rumored to leave but it was reported that Furniture Row racing team owner Barney Visser might be looking to sell the team if more sponsorship couldn’t become available. This led many to believe that Allegiant Airline CEO  Maurice Gallagher would purchase the team, re-sign Martin Truex Jr and promote his son Spencer to the cup series after serving his suspension for using a banned substance.

According to popular racing journalist Adam Stern, those talks “collapsed” leaving the status of the team and Truex Jr unknown. Personally, I believe that Truex is a championship caliber driver who would have no problem finding another ride next season, but it would truly be a shame to see this team not return next season. Let's hope as fans that they can find the sponsorship needed to continue in 2018 and into the future.

The odds-on favorite going into this week is last year’s winner Denny Hamlin. Last season, Hamlin made one of the best drives in recent memory after he overcame a two lap deficit to win. This is a track that Hamlin has always shined at; over the course of his 12 starts here, Hamlin has two wins, seven top fives and 10 top tens. Maybe this week will be the race Hamlin finally breaks through and gets that elusive first win of the season. He should be hard to beat when the green flag drops.  

The driver I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. Coming into this week, Larson cemented his spot in the “playoffs” by obtaining enough points during the season and while he hasn’t won a race this year he goes to another track that suits his driving style perfectly. He thrives when he drives on the high side up near the wall and at Darlington the prefered line is exactly where Larson runs every week, not to mention he also has the third highest average finish here since 2016. While this season hasn’t been terrible for him, not winning a race has been tough. Larson has struggled to adapt to the Camaro but is talented enough to be in contention week in and week out and this week I think he finally breaks through and claims his sixth career win at Darlington.

(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).

 

Story originally appeared on AutomotiveMap. For more great content check out the site here.

She worked hard to get them where they are today, often sacrificing hours of "me time" and wear and tear on the car making sure they got back and forth to practice. When professional athletes sign their big contract, their moms are often rewarded for their years of inconvenience with a new car. Other moms, like MLB player Josh Donaldson's, get a new vehicle as a congratulatory gift for a life event years after that first contract has been signed.

Here are some of the cars professional athletes have recently bought their moms.

Chase Winovich, DE, New England Patriots

Chase Winovich✔@WinoI can never repay you, but here's a start. I love you mom
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New England Patriots rookie defensive end and Michigan alum Chase Winovichpurchased his mother, Nina, a Mazda MX-5 Miata according to a November 20, 2019 tweet. The Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania native signed his first NFL contact in June 2019. The four-year deal is worth $3.83 million.

Deandre Baker, CB, New York Giants

Deandre Baker surprised his mom with a Bentley Bentayga in Miami in 2019. The caption on his Instagram post featuring the moment reads, "I told Mama we straight. Remember we used to be in a Nissan. Watched her struggle and sacrifice to make sure I'm straight. Now it's my turn to take care [of] her." Baker signed a contract with the Giants that will pay him $10,525,716 over four years, including a $5,675,064 signing bonus.

Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros

Aaron Bregman MLB All-Star Game MVP Chevrolet Camaro

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Houston multi-position player Alex Bregman earned the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award during the 89th MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park in 2018. With that came the winner's choices of a Chevrolet Camaro SS or a Colorado ZR2. Bregman chose the Camaro and gave it to his mother Jackie. In July it was announced that Bregman and the Astros had agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension.

Alize Johnson, PG, Indiana Pacers

Williamsport, Pennsylvania is the home of the Little League World Series and Alize Johnson, a point guard who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 2018 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9 player is guaranteed to make $1.4 million for the 2019-20 season. In 2018 he surprised his mother with a new Chevrolet Suburban, her self-described "dream car."

Norman Powell, SG, Toronto Raptors

Former UCLA Bruin Norman Powell was selected in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He was instantly traded to the Toronto Raptors, where he has stayed ever since. In 2018, Powell signed a four-year, $41.9 million contract. He used some of that coin to buy his mom a 2020 Land Rover Range Rover this August at a San Diego dealership.

Mitchell Robinson, C, New York Knicks

The Knicks Wall@TheKnicksWallThe best thing you'll see all day:

Mitchell Robinson bought his mother a car ❤️

(Via @23savage____ IG)
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Mitchell Robinson, the 7-foot-1 center who famously withdrew from college to spend a year training for the NBA before he was drafted, dropped a few bucks on his mom this summer. He gifted his mom a white Chevrolet Impala. Last year Robinson signed a three-year, $4.71 million contract with the Knicks. There is a club option for the 2021-22 season that would get him an extra $1.8 million.

Johnathan Abram, S, Oakland Raiders

Mississippi State alum Johnathan Abram recently surprised his mom with a new Toyota Camry. Abram was the 27th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He was chosen in a pick that was given up by the Dallas Cowboys as part of the Amari Cooper trade. Abram's contract is worth $11.45 million over four years.

Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Hollywood Brown✔@Primetime_jetSince I was 7yrs old this the moment I been waiting for, bigger than any moment I ever been apart of.. Everything I do is for you momma I love you 💜💜 You wanted a house and a car and you got it , I got you Forever Ever !!!
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Marquise Brown took the gift giving even further, getting his mom a car and a Land Rover Range Rover. Brown, who is a first cousin of NFL free agent Antonio Brown, was selected 25th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. His contact is for four years and worth $11.787 million.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson✔@deshaunwatsonHappy Birthday Mama! I love you & you deserve your first official car! Enjoy it! "Had to cop her the '17 Jag" 💯🤘🏾
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In 1997 Deshaun Watson bought his mom a car '17 Jaguar F-Pace for her birthday. The Gainesville, Georgia native played quarterback at Clemson before being drafted by the Texans 12th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. His first contract was a four-year, $13.84 million deal.

Anthony Duclair, F, Chicago Blackhawks

Duclair took a moment from leading his line down the ice to lead his mom into a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Laval, Quebec where he surprised her with a new black Mercedes-Benz C300 sedan. Duclair currently plays for the Ottawa Senators and will earn $1,650,000 this season.

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