THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR First Data 500 preview

Martin Truex could score a big win this week. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Martinsville Speedway for the First Data 500. This is the opening race for NASCAR’s semifinal round of eight. A win in this race for any of the eight drivers that remain in the playoffs will assure them a spot in the championship race at Homestead. Over the last few years, Martinsville has featured some of the most memorable finishes in the sport's history and this race should be no different. Look for each driver in the playoffs to try and win at all cost, even if it means possibly wrecking someone like we saw Denny Hamlin do last season with Chase Elliott.

Last week, Chase Elliott was able to claim his third win of the season at Kansas after fending off Kyle Busch. The victory for Elliott made him the 27th driver to claim their first three wins in one season, With this milestone, Elliott is in good company as he joins the likes of Richard Petty, David Pearson and of course teammate and mentor Jimmie Johnson. While Elliott was celebrating the highs of victory, on the opposite end of the spectrum drivers Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman were all eliminated from championship contention. Out of these eliminations, the biggest surprise was Keselowski. Coming into the playoffs, he was in the midst of three race winning streak and was an early favorite to win the title and break up the dominance of Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. He entered the round of 12 fourth in points but after two mediocre results at Dover and Talladega, a respectable sixth place finish last week at Kansas was not enough for him to move on. This just goes to show how much things can change in this sport in such a short time.

This week Busch comes to Martinsville as the favorite. Overall what Busch has been able to accomplish here has been pretty incredible. Over the last four races he has an average finish of 2.20 including a win last season that clinched his spot in the championship race. During the course of his illustrious career, short tracks like Martinsville have been his bread and butter; in fact amongst all active drivers no one has led more laps or has a better average finish on short tracks than Busch. He should be the driver to beat this sunday as he looks to advance to his fourth consecutive championship race at Homestead.

The driver who I predict will win this week is Martin Truex Jr. This season has been an emotional roller coaster for the defending champion. He started off the season as the heavy favorite to repeat and for the most part of this season it looked like he was on the path to doing so but when it was announced in september that his current team Furniture Row Racing will be shutting down next season, the results have not been what this team would hope for. While he and his team did finish top five last week, in the three weeks prior his best finish was 14th at the Charlotte Roval, a race he was one corner away from winning. Many people have began to count this team out but this week I think he goes out and proves his doubters wrong and wins his first race on a short track. Though Truex hasn’t put up spectacular numbers here at Martinsville, if last year’s second place finish is any indication to how good Truex is here, I don’t see any reason why he can’t win Sunday and get this team back in the championship hunt and give Furniture Row Racing the proper send off with a championship.

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

 

 

The Monster Energy Cup Series makes its annual trip to New England for the Foxtrot Hotel and Casino 301

NASCAR heads for New Hampshire

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Casino 301. This track is fairly enigmatic as it's considered a one mile oval but races like a short track. As we saw in this race last season with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, this track is no stranger to beating and banging. One characteristic about it that makes it so unique is its banking or lack thereof. Overall, the corners are as flat as they come so it's difficult to find the best line around the racetrack. It should be interesting come Sunday.

Last week Kurt Busch was able to fend off his younger brother Kyle in one of the best battles in NASCAR history. In the closing stages, it looked like Joey Logano was on his way to his third win of the season but with six laps to go, the caution came out after Darrell Wallace Jr spun in turn two. This caution would set up for a green/white/checkered restart and it was one for the ages. When the race resumed, Kyle, Kurt and Erik Jones all battled for the lead but when the dust settled, it came down to both Busch Brothers and Kurt was able to prevail. This was Kurt's first victory for his new team at Chip Ganassi racing and also the first victory for the #1 car since 2013 when Jamie McMurray won at Talladega. It was great to see both brothers get to race heads up for the win. This is not the first time both of these drivers have finished 1-2, this year at Bristol the roles were reversed as Kyle was able to take the victory. As we have moved past half-way It has been a great season for the 2004 Champion and he should be one of the drivers to watch as the regular season starts to wind down. While Kurt and his team were celebrating the thrill of victory, Joey Logano and his team experienced the agony of defeat. In the closing stages, Joey appeared to have the fastest car on the track. He was able to catch and then pass Kyle Busch for the lead and was driving away from everyone but as we all know, this is NASCAR and it's never over till it's over. On the final restart, he fell all the way back to seventh. This just goes to show that you never really know what to expect when it comes to this sport and that's what everyone loves when they tune in to watch.

Even after last week's festivities, Kyle Busch remains the favorite to win this week. Over the course of his career, Kyle has won here three times. This is a track that he figured out fairly quickly considering he won here in his second full-time season back in 2006. It is a track that is somewhat similar to the bull-ring he raced on when he was in the beginning of his racing career so it has seemed to translate over into his Cup efforts here, he should be fast he as always. Look for Kyle to bounce back from last week's heartbreak.

The driver that I have winning this week is Aric Almirola. While this may come as a surprise to some, Aric has really started to consistently run well. Aside from his teammate Kevin Harvick, he has the best average finish amongst the Stewart-Haas racing drivers at 13.53. While on the surface it might not look all that impressive, he continues to run around the top five week in and week out and one thing that doesn't get talked about as much is how great he was here last year. In the final 45 laps, he appeared to be in a great spot as he was leading and driving away until a caution came out and swayed his momentum. This year, I think it will be much different and I can see him having a breakthrough race and getting to victory lane and get the first win of the season for Stewart-Haas. Look for Aric and the #10 Ford to go to victory lane.


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

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome