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).

 

 

Courtesy photo

Ever since I was a young man, I have always had a major interest in car racing. I don't know what it was that drew me to the sport but I have always loved it. Back when I was younger, while other kids loved watching cartoons and animaes, I was different. What I watched was a VHS copy of ESPN's CART year in review from 1996. Every day, I sat next to the TV and memorized all of the finishes and the winners of the races. From that point on, I knew I was an Indycar fan for life. While I was watching the greats like Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi, I promised myself that I would get to ride in an Indycar and now thanks to the great people at Sportsmap and Giant Noise, on Thursday March 21 I got to fulfill a dream of a lifetime.

For some of the people that don't know me, growing up I had a lot of trouble socially. While I didn't necessarily have a hard time talking to people, keeping them around was a whole different story. I struggled with paying attention to other people when talking to them because I could only think about one thing and usually that was racing,

This was especially difficult in my early years of elementary school. Due to my lack of attention span, my parents (especially my mom) did all they could to try and help me have a better time in school. They took me to psychiatrists and I was placed on multiple medications to no avail. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. This was very difficult for me because I was treated differently than anyone else by everyone at my schools due to my disorder. I was placed in smaller classes where the work I had to do seemed to be much less than anyone else. I felt horrible and I felt like I wasn't as smart or as normal as anyone else around me.

The one thing that helped me get through it though was my dream to hopefully ride in one of the indycar's that I watched so much of growing up. At a young age, I always told everyone I knew that one day, I was going to ride in a race-car and while there were many drivers that I told people I was going to ride with, one of the many names I mentioned was racing legend Mario Andretti. Flash forward many years later that time came. After getting into one of the fire suits and putting on one of their helmets I was summoned to which car I would ride in and guess who happened to be driving? Mario Andretti! When I strapped into the car while at that moment I couldn't believe that I had made it, I always knew that if I worked hard, met the right people and never gave up I would be able to achieve the dream I had hoped for and overall, riding in the car was one of the most incredible things to ever have happened to me!

As cliche as it sounds, life is a lot like racing in a way. No matter the obstacle, everyone has to keep going towards the checkered flag. Also like in racing It's essential to have a great team around you and I could not be more grateful for the people I met here at SportsMap, ESPN 97.5 and Giant noise. The people who did the most for me though where my mom,dad and my late grandmother. They did everything in their power to get me to where I am at today while they could have easily told me that there were other careers I should go into they always believed that I could cover motorsports. At the end of the day like in racing, there will always be minor setbacks but as long as you believe that you can win, you will find a way. Don't ever give up on the things you want to do.

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