THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Brickyard 400 preview

Jimmie Johnson hopes to get back on track. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This week, we head for quite possibly the most prestigious tracks in all of the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For the first time in NASCAR’s 24-year history with the track, this race will be run in September as opposed to its traditional late July, early August date it has run since its first race in 1994. Last week Brad Keselowski pulled off a late race pass on Kyle Larson to claim his first victory of the 2018 season.

While it was a big win for Keselowski, on the other side of the coin it was heart shattering for Larson as he led a race high 284 laps and won both stages before surrendering the lead and second place to Keselowski and Joey Logano. Both Keselowski and Larson should be serious contenders going into the playoffs.

Another new element to this race is that it will be the cutoff race before the long awaited “playoffs” begin next week in Las Vegas. This race will be the last chance for the drivers on the outside looking in to win and clinch their spot in the round of 16.  Anything can happen here at the brickyard and last year's race was a prime example of this track's unpredictability. In the closing stages, both Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch were involved in an collision in turn one following a restart. At this point, both cars were easily the two best cars on the track, but in one corner any chance of victory was dashed for both of them. The dispute between Busch and Truex seemed to set up a domino effect as there were five cautions including two pileups. When it was all said and done Kasey Kahne was able to avoid all the calamity and take his first win of the 2017 season. At that time, Kahne needed a victory to lock down a place in the playoffs and he did just that. If last season’s finish is any indication to what we could see this Sunday, look to see a surprise winner.

Going into this week, 14 spots have already been accounted for to make the opening round of the playoffs which means there are still two spots up for grabs this Sunday. Some of the drivers on the outside looking in are Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez. With getting in on points more than likely out the window, these three drivers have one more shot to solidify their spot in the playoffs.

On Tuesday,  fans were shocked to hear that Furniture Row Racing will cease operations at the end of the season. How is it possible that a team that won a NASCAR championship last season and possibly contend for another title this year could close their doors after such success? Well there are many variables that could factor into why this is happening. One of them is their relationship with team Joe Gibbs and Toyota. In 2015, it was announced that Furniture Row racing would switch to Toyota racing and form an alliance with Gibbs. The team would receive chassis and engines amongst other resources the following season in 2016.

While this worked well for Furniture Row, Joe Gibbs and his team seemed to fall off in performance. Each week, it would seem like Truex Jr. and his team were always outrunning the team that they were getting parts from. As a result, this season their deal with Toyota was up at the end of the year and many believe that Gibbs raised the price on all of the resources for Furniture Row Racing thus putting them out of business. What makes matters worse for them is that next season more than likely Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn will go and drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. Not only does he run them out of business but he gets their driver as well. At the end of the day it is a shame that both of these teams couldn’t coexist as it hurts the competition of the sport in the long run.

This week the driver that I have winning is Jimmie Johnson. It has been no secret that this has been the worst year of his career, as he is in the midst of the longest winless streak in his career; it has been a downward spiral for the seven time champion but he is coming to a track where he has a loads of success. He leads all active drivers in victories and laps led. It seemed like last year he was on his way to victory until his engine gave way causing him to crash in the final laps. This victory very well could put him back on track and possibly give him the confidence needed to score his record setting eight title. This week, look for Johnson to put the Number f48 Lowes Camaro in victory lane for a fifth victory at the brickyard.  It should be an interesting end to the regular season as we inch closer and closer to crowning a champion

(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's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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