The Left Turn

NASCAR Consumers Energy 400 preview

Chase Elliot won his first race. Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The Monster Energy Cup series hits the high banks of Michigan international Sunday for this week's Consumers Energy 400. Last week at Watkins Glen, Chase Elliott FINALLY was able to pick up his first career victory. While he was clearly the best car in the closing stages, the win did not come easy for the third year driver as he not only had to outrun the defending champion in Martin Truex Jr, but also he had to save enough gas to make sure he could even get to the finish line.

During the final laps, it looked like Truex was going to steal another victory this season but just couldn’t seem to get around Elliott. Due to how hard he was driving to catch him, Truex ran out of fuel in the final turn sealing the win for Elliott. For many, this was a very popular victory as Chase was greeted with thundering applause from the crowd, and the fans at the track and at home all knew that they had truly witnessed something special. Overall, was Watkins Glen the most exciting finish of the season? No. Probably not, but who knows, this could very well be the beginning of a legendary career for one of NASCAR’s many rising talents.

One of the biggest storylines of last week was the struggles  of Jimmie Johnson. All throughout the day, his Lowes Camaro ran mediocre at best and while he wasn’t the worst, he had nowhere near the speed that his teammates Chase Elliott and William Byron had.

He ran around 16th for the most part of the race until he was involved a crash with A.J. Allmendinger with 10 laps remaining that relegated him to a 13th place finish. While he may make the playoffs since at this point he has a pretty substantial lead over 17th, there are a lot of things that can happen that would see Johnson miss the playoffs for the first time over the course of his illustrious 16 year career.

For this to happen, two drivers  currently outside of the top 15 in points would need to win a race. This is truly uncharted water for Johnson as he as now in the midst of his longest winless streak of his career. Will he win a race this year? If you would have asked me maybe two months ago, I would have said absolutely, but right now I just don’t know. Over the course of his last four starts, his best finish is 10th at New Hampshire, and this race team has just not shown me that they can contend for victories. Regardless, I still think that he will be able to make the round of 16 on points and then after that who knows what could happen. Look for Jimmie to try and rebound and get back in a rhythm at Michigan.

The favorite going into this week has to be  defending Michigan winner Clint Bowyer. The last time the Monster Energy Cup Series came here in June, Bowyer was able to fend off his Stewart Haas racing teammates of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch before the rain came and ended the race prematurely. Regardless of Michigan not being anywhere close to his best race track over the course of his career, winning this race in June had to be a big momentum booster and I would not be surprised in the slightest if he was able to go out and sweep both races this year and further solidify himself as the fourth championship contender.

This weekend's winner will be the same guy who won last weekend at Watkins Glen, Chase Elliott. Listen, while Kyle Larson might be the more logical choice I am still going with NASCAR’s newest golden child. Last weekend, Chase drove  the best race that I have seen him run his entire career and now that he has that elusive first win what's to stop him from him from backing it up with another one? Besides, this is easily his best track. In all five of his starts at Michigan, he could have won here at least three times. I think this year, Elliott will battle Larson all the way down to the final laps and finally get revenge on Larson and all those times he has finished second to him over the last two years. Look for Elliott to get Hendrick Motorsports back to their old ways come Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at and the best website for all NASCAR stats).


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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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