THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 preview

Daytona was exciting in February. The night race this weekend should be as well. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This Saturday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the high banks of Daytona for the annual Coke Zero Sugar 400. This race is one of the most prestigious races on the schedule and many fans of the sport consider it to be one of the crown jewels of the season.

The track is easily one of the most famous in all of the world  due to its three and four wide racing and its unpredictability. You never know what can happen when NASCAR comes here; in fact this track has given us some of the biggest upsets in the sports history, like when Derrike Cope passed Dale Earnhardt for the victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 or when Jimmy Spencer outran Ernie Irvan for his first victory in 1994. At Daytona the only thing to expect is the unexpected and this week should be no different.

Last week, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch had one of the most memorable battles in NASCAR History. On the final lap, Larson attempted to pass Busch in the second corner but after he failed to complete the pass, he made contact with Busch. After this Busch brushed the outside retaining wall giving Larson the lead temporarily but in turn three, Busch was able to get to the back bumper of Larson and pushed him aside as he captured his fifth victory of 2018.

While Larson was not able to hold him off, he did managed to recover and finish second. All day the racing we saw was excellent. There were 24 lead changes and lots of storylines all throughout the day such as the lapped traffic, the sweltering heat that hit the Chicagoland area and of course loose wheels.  As much grief as NASCAR fans give Brian France and the powers that be, this time they got it right.

The biggest disappointment of the race had to be Aric Almirola. Early on in the race, it appeared as if he had the car to beat. He went on to win the first stage and lead more laps than anyone with 70. All the stars seemed to be aligning for him but on lap 142, a loose wheel set him back a lap. While it was a big blow to his chances he still had plenty of time to make up for it. By the final stage, he had steadily clawed his way back into the top ten but in the closing stages, due to ANOTHER loose wheel Almirola was relegated to a dismal 25th place finish. Regardless of the finish, he went out and proved that his success this year was no fluke and looks to be in prime performance to do what his predecessor Danica Patrick couldn't do and  win a race this year. Look to hear about him later this season and in this article.

Alex Bowman was another driver who deserves a shoutout. He continues to exceed expectations as he went on to score his sixth top 10 of 2018 last sunday. When it was announced last year that Bowman would take over for Dale Earnhardt Jr, there was an enormous amount of pressure that came with it and he has gone out and done exactly what he is supposed to do and more. He currently sits 16th in the “playoff” points standings and continues to improve week by week. Look for Bowman to blossom into a great race car driver in the next year or so.

The favorite going into this race is once again Brad Keselowski. As I have written before, Brad is always hard to beat when there is a restrictor plate race. Some would even say he has picked up where his former mentor Dale Earnhardt, Jr left off. At both Talladega and Daytona, he has a combined total of six victories - the most amongst all active drivers. He was also third quickest in practice on Thursday and if that’s any indication as to how he will run, look for Keselowski to be one of the top contenders in the race on Saturday.

The driver that I have winning is Almirola. Over the course of his career at Daytona, Almirola has experienced both the highest of  highs and the lowest of lows. He was able to score his first and only victory here in 2014 after the race ended prematurely due to rain and was also  on his way to a victory in this year’s Daytona 500 before being turned head on into the wall by Austin Dillon on the final lap. He continued to run well on Thursday as he was second quickest in practice behind his teammate Clint Bowyer. Look for Almirola to finish what he started in February in the 500 and take the checkered flag on Saturday.

My sleeper pick for this weekend is Michael McDowell. Coming into this race, McDowell is listed at 100/1 odds to win and while he may not win the race this week, I think that there is a good chance that he is able to finish in the top 10. Not only was he 12th quickest in practice on Thursday but during the last two times that he has raced here, he has finished fourth and ninth. I can see him getting his best finish this week like he did last year because for one, it’s Daytona and anything can happen here and also because he is one of the more underrated restrictor plate drivers. If he and his teammate David Regan can work together to get to the front, it is very possible that we can see the Front Row Racing team get their first victory since 2013 and McDowell get the first win of his career. Look for McDowell in the number 34 K-Love Ford to have a shot at going to victory lane.

(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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