The Left Turn

NASCAR Coca Cola 600 preview

Kevin Harvick keeps winning. Last week it was the All-Star race. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

This Sunday, The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Charlotte Motor Speedway  for the famed Coca Cola 600. This is race is one of the “Crown Jewels” on the schedule and is always one of the more anticipated races of the season. NASCAR’s field of 40 will do battle for a grueling 400 laps which equals out to of course 600 miles.

Last week, NASCAR decided to take a different approach for the non-points paying All-Star race. The cars came equipped with a smaller spoiler on the decklid and the ever polarizing restrictor plate. Overall the race was met by critical acclaim from all groups of people  that cover and watch the sport as the modifications and rule changes brought a whole new element to a race that had become tedious to some. While the cars were much closer together and there was more passing and battles for position, at the end of the night Kevin Harvick was able to continue his run and take his sixth victory of the season

This week we snap back into reality. All of the cars will go back to the regular aero package that they have been running all season. The racing that we see this week at Charlotte will be drastically different than what we saw at the all-star race as the cars will be much faster and more spread out. Thanks to its length, fuel should play a big factor in determining the outcome as well. In fact, last year’s Coca Cola 600 saw Austin Dillon claim his first career victory after Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas with two laps remaining. This race is so long that almost every year it comes down to who can go the longest on a tank of fuel and you can almost bet that we will see the same thing this year. Look for the driver who can somehow save the most amount of fuel to go to victory lane at the end of the night.

Some of the favorites going into this week are all four drivers at Joe Gibbs racing. On Thursday, the Gibbs team makes up for three of the first four starting spots with Kyle Busch qualifying first, Denny Hamlin third and Erik Jones fourth. While Gibbs and his team have been Kevin Harvick’s main competition this season, the only driver that has won has been Kyle Busch. Earlier in the season, he was able to win three consecutive races at Texas, Bristol and Richmond. This weekend, Busch will try and capture his first Coca Cola 600 victory and he has a better chance than anyone. Even though Charlotte is one of the few tracks he has not won (unless you count the all-star race last season which is not a points paying event)  look for the M&M’s Camry to be a major factor.

The driver that I have going to victory lane this weekend is Denny Hamlin. As I stated earlier in the article, the only driver for Joe Gibbs that has won this season is Kyle Busch and he will definitely be a contender come sunday but this week I just see Hamlin having a breakthrough weekend. Like his teammate, Hamlin has also never won here at Charlotte but he has always been near the top of the charts. In his 25 starts, he has eight top-five’s and 16 top 10s so he has proved that he can run up front here but in the past he just has never quite been able to close the deal. I don’t think this will be the case here, Hamlin has a fast race car from what we have seen in both practice and qualifying. Look for Hamlin to go to victory lane come sunday.

A good sleeper for this race is Jamie McMurray. If you are a fan of the sport, you know that 2018 has been the worst season of McMurray’s career. He is currently 24th in points and has only had two lead lap finishes all season, but this weekend McMurray seems to be in prime position to have a bounce back race. He started the weekend off on the right track with a seventh place qualifying effort and is at a track where he has run well at in the past. In fact, if it weren’t for his  success at this race track, Jamie Mac might not even be where he is today. In 2002, McMurray captured his first career victory here at the fall race as he was able to hold off a hard charging Bobby Labonte. In his second NASCAR start, McMurray went to victory lane. Look for McMurray to try and rekindle that magic come sunday in the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet.

(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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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

UPDATE: With the Angels loss on Friday night, the Astros have secured their playoff berth. They will be part of the MLB postseason for their fourth-straight season.

After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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