THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Can-Am 500 preview

Kevin Harvick is the story this week. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series heads for ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona for this week’s Can-Am 500. This race is probably the third most important race of the season behind the Daytona 500 and next week’s season finale at Homestead. This is the race that decides who gets to run for a title, and who goes home empty handed.

Earlier this year, the track announced extensive renovations which include a more fan accessible garage area, a new scoring pylon and a reconfiguration of the track including the start/finish line which has been relocated to the back straight away. The placement is similar to Talladega start finish line which is in virtually the same location. The new layout will provide a whole new element to the race and will change the way drivers attempt to pass on Sunday.

Last week, Kevin Harvick cruised to his eightieth win of the season after sweeping both stages and leading 177 laps. At the time, this victory punched Harvick's ticket to Miami and race for his second championship but on Wednesday, it was announced that he would be docked forty points and his Texas victory was “encumbered” meaning his victory at Texas is null and void when it comes to going to Homestead. He also loses his championship winning crew-chief Rodney Childress for the remainder of the season. Now while all of the benefits that come with the victory have been revoked, it is important to note that Harvick is still credited in the record books with the victory at Texas Motor Speedway. He keeps the trophy and the winnings from the victory.

It was discovered that the team made illegal modifications to their spoiler; the violation was found at NASCAR’s Research and Development center. Even though he was essentially stripped of his victory, he still enters this week’s race three points above fifth place. This can be attributed to the massive amounts of playoff and stage points he has amassed all throughout the 2018 regular season.

With the penalty, this has sparked a debate amongst NASCAR’s water cooler. Should penalties be harsher when it comes to rules violations like these? If so what sanctions should NASCAR take to insure that drivers learn their lesson? Many fans believe that if it is discovered that a car fails inspection, the driver should have to concede their trophy, race winnings and points to the guy who finished second.  This is the debate that has been discussed for many years, after multiple drivers have failed inspection over the course of NASCAR's history. When asked about it for next season, NASCAR Spokesman Scott Miller stated they are considering harsher penalties including vacating wins. More than likely, I don’t foresee them doing this because of all of the sponsors that they have to keep happy and they would probably not be pleased if their driver is stripped of the victory. We should get an announcement about this in the off-season at some time and it should be interesting to see what is next.

While the penalties don’t change the order, the walls around Harvick are now more narrow than ever. He enters this weekend three points ahead of his teammate Kurt Busch, seventeen points ahead of Chase Elliott and 35 points and 51 points ahead of his other teammates Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.   Harvick will definitely have drive on the defensive to make sure he’s not only ahead of Busch but that he keeps the other four drivers behind him out of victory lane considering a win clinches their ticket to Homestead.

Despite all of the turmoil this week, Harvick is still the odds on favorite to win this race come Sunday. Over the course of each of the track on the schedule, no one has dominated at ISM raceway like Harvick has. Of his 31 starts here, he has won here an astounding nine times! No one in the history of the track's 30-year history has more wins than he does. This week he will be even more difficult to beat considering he now has extra motivation to go out and prove that winning at Texas  was not a fluke due to the rules violations. I look for Harvick to be a near lock to at least be in the top five this weekend. Barring an accident, he is simply too good at this track to not go out and be a contender. Look for Harvick to claim win number 10 come Sunday.

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).

 

 

The Monster Energy Cup Series makes its annual trip to New England for the Foxtrot Hotel and Casino 301

NASCAR heads for New Hampshire

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Casino 301. This track is fairly enigmatic as it's considered a one mile oval but races like a short track. As we saw in this race last season with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, this track is no stranger to beating and banging. One characteristic about it that makes it so unique is its banking or lack thereof. Overall, the corners are as flat as they come so it's difficult to find the best line around the racetrack. It should be interesting come Sunday.

Last week Kurt Busch was able to fend off his younger brother Kyle in one of the best battles in NASCAR history. In the closing stages, it looked like Joey Logano was on his way to his third win of the season but with six laps to go, the caution came out after Darrell Wallace Jr spun in turn two. This caution would set up for a green/white/checkered restart and it was one for the ages. When the race resumed, Kyle, Kurt and Erik Jones all battled for the lead but when the dust settled, it came down to both Busch Brothers and Kurt was able to prevail. This was Kurt's first victory for his new team at Chip Ganassi racing and also the first victory for the #1 car since 2013 when Jamie McMurray won at Talladega. It was great to see both brothers get to race heads up for the win. This is not the first time both of these drivers have finished 1-2, this year at Bristol the roles were reversed as Kyle was able to take the victory. As we have moved past half-way It has been a great season for the 2004 Champion and he should be one of the drivers to watch as the regular season starts to wind down. While Kurt and his team were celebrating the thrill of victory, Joey Logano and his team experienced the agony of defeat. In the closing stages, Joey appeared to have the fastest car on the track. He was able to catch and then pass Kyle Busch for the lead and was driving away from everyone but as we all know, this is NASCAR and it's never over till it's over. On the final restart, he fell all the way back to seventh. This just goes to show that you never really know what to expect when it comes to this sport and that's what everyone loves when they tune in to watch.

Even after last week's festivities, Kyle Busch remains the favorite to win this week. Over the course of his career, Kyle has won here three times. This is a track that he figured out fairly quickly considering he won here in his second full-time season back in 2006. It is a track that is somewhat similar to the bull-ring he raced on when he was in the beginning of his racing career so it has seemed to translate over into his Cup efforts here, he should be fast he as always. Look for Kyle to bounce back from last week's heartbreak.

The driver that I have winning this week is Aric Almirola. While this may come as a surprise to some, Aric has really started to consistently run well. Aside from his teammate Kevin Harvick, he has the best average finish amongst the Stewart-Haas racing drivers at 13.53. While on the surface it might not look all that impressive, he continues to run around the top five week in and week out and one thing that doesn't get talked about as much is how great he was here last year. In the final 45 laps, he appeared to be in a great spot as he was leading and driving away until a caution came out and swayed his momentum. This year, I think it will be much different and I can see him having a breakthrough race and getting to victory lane and get the first win of the season for Stewart-Haas. Look for Aric and the #10 Ford to go to victory lane.


(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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