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 Now while all of the benefits that come with the victory have been revoked, it is important to note that Harvick is still credited in the record books with the victory at Texas Motor Speedway.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).

 

 


This Saturday NASCAR heads home to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 34th running of NASCAR's All-Star Race. This is one of NASCAR's marquee events as there are no points on the line and the winner will receive a cool $1 million. This race will feature all the winners from 2019 and 2018, drivers who have won a championship and are competing full-time, and drivers who have won an all-star race as well. The race will be 85 laps in total and broken up into four segments including the final fifteen lap segment to decide the winner.

There will also be a consolation race before the main event as well called "the All-Star open." This race will be for the the rest of the field that does not fit the criteria to get into the main event. Popular drivers such as Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Darrell Wallace Jr and Matt DiBenedetto will all participate in this race. The rules for this race are quite different than what we see in the all-star race, it will be a 50 lap race broken into three segments and the winner of each segment will automatically advance to the main event.

Another interesting aspect of this race is that it will also feature a fan vote. Each year since 2004, NASCAR has given fans a platform to decide who gets to be the final driver from the open to transfer into the main event as they can vote on NASCAR's website. Some of the favorites to win this award are Darrell Wallace Jr and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This is one of the unique things about the race seeing how a lot of drivers come up with funny gimmicks to try and sway fans to vote for them. This week we saw that Stenhouse Jr went on record and said that he would grow a mullet if he wins the fan vote. As much as people might want to see him make good on this promise, I think Ricky will be able to win one of the segments and advance to keep his normal haircut. The other two winners will be Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman. The driver that I have winning the fan vote is Darrell Wallace Jr. It has been a rough 2019 for the young driver as the results haven't quite been what he has wanted and he has recently opened up about his battle with depression. I hope that if he isn't able to win one of the segments that this can bring some joy to an otherwise miserable season.

Moving on to the main event, this race will be one of the most intriguing races of the season. After seeing last year's race and the amount of competition we were able to see and this year should be no different. The driver that I have winning this week is Clint Bowyer. While he doesn't have the flashy numbers at this track, this fourteen car has steadily been getting better and better. This race also really caters to his hard charging driving style as he has shown over the years that he is not afraid to use the bumper (just ask Jeff Gordon) with this race being a non-points race, I could see him moving someone out of the way to get that Million Dollar Prize. Look for him 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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