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's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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