THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Dixie Vodka 400 preview and predictions

Image via: WikiCommons.

NASCAR heads to Homestead-Miami this week for the Dixie Vodka 400. This is the first time that the series will hold a race at this track during this time as usually the race here has been the season finale. One thing that will really change the complexity of this race is going to be the weather considering how hot it gets in Florida in June, so the track should be way more slippery and hard to find grip. We will see a lot of cars run around the outside next to the wall as that seems to be the preferred line.

There is a chance of rain this weekend and if the race is to be rained out, there is a good chance we could see the race run Monday considering there is no midweek races in the future. Another major storyline going into this race is that it will be the first to feature fans. It was announced that 1,000 service members and frontline workers will be allowed to attend Sunday's event as they will be spread out around the grandstands. This is a major step for the future and I hope they can find a way to get back to full capacity at some point.

On Wednesday, Martin Truex Jr. went on to capture his 27th career victory. Throughout the night, Truex struggled to find speed and even sustained some damage that had to be repaired. The team continued to work on their car and just kept getting better and better as the night went on and took the lead on lap 375 and never looked back. The race overall was really intriguing as there were so many characters that looked like they were going to win. First, there was Joey Lagano who set the tone early, then Jimmie Johnson had his turn at the front as he led 70 laps before Martin Truex finally took over. A lot of this can be attributed to the omission of practice and qualifying that sort of equaled the playing field. It will be interesting to see how this continues to affect things going forward.

In this race we also saw a lot of great runs from some of the smaller teams as well. The biggest example of this has to be Bubba Wallace. All throughout the day, he showed a lot of promise as he ran in the top five for the better part of the day. While he faded a bit towards the middle of the race, his car got better in the final laps, and he clawed his way back to an eleventh place finish. This team continues to improve week in and week out as last week at Bristol he was able to finish tenth and get himself back into playoff contention.

So as we all know, this past week NASCAR announced that it would be banning the display of the Confederate flag at their race track. I applaud NASCAR for finally showing some backbone and making the right decision even if it wasn't the most popular among some of its toothless fan base. It wasn't just fans that decided they wanted to take their ball and go home as truck series regular Ray Ciccarelli also decided he was going to retire at the end of the season because of this.

While the headline may state that Ciccarelli was a driver, his stats prove otherwise as he much like the Confederacy never won, and hardly even cracked the top ten. Overall, no one notices him when he is on the track and I doubt it will be any different when he doesn't come to Daytona next February. Overall, this flag is an outdated representation of a country that no longer exists and I have no idea why some people want to cling to it so badly. I hope that this decision by NASCAR weeds out a lot of morons, and we can finally move forward.

Moving on, the driver that I have winning this weekend at Homestead is Kyle Busch. Last Wednesday's finish at Martinsville was a disaster for the defending champion as they never could find any speed. He struggled and finished 19th. This week I think Kyle will bounce back. Here at Homestead, Kyle has been the model of consistency as he has won here twice and has finished no worse than 6th. While the circumstances at this track are different, it is still the same track, and he definitely knows how to get around this place. Look for Kyle to get his first win of 2020 come Sunday.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats)

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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