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.


Courtesy photo.

Mike Herzing is one of three founders of The Texas Motor Press Association.

One of the most anticipated events at the Houston Auto Show: the presentation of the Texas Truck, Car, SUV and CUV of the Year awards. This the "Texas Academy Awards" for the automotive industry, with four winners: Texas Car of the Year, Texas Truck of the Year, Texas SUV of the Year and the Texas Crossover of the Year. Presented by the Texas Motor Press Association, the winners are selected by an elite group of Texas Automotive Journalists.

Seeing a need to support automotive journalists in Texas, The Texas Motor Press Association (TxMPA) is the brainchild of Award-Winning Journalists Michael Herzing, Eileen Falkenberg-Hull and Alan Gell, who formed the organization on behalf of journalists. The organization hosts educational and networking events throughout the year to help members create meaningful, insightful, and informed content that influences the public's buying decisions, appeals to enthusiast interests, and registers with a Texas-based audience and beyond.

TxMPA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization for automotive industry professionals, has quickly gained the support of some of the industry's foremost automotive journalists, including those from top outlets such Roadshow by CNET, The Drive, SB Nation Radio, American City Business Journals, AutoGuide, Alex on Autos, and Autobytel/Autoweb gained membership. In addition to notable nationwide outlets, TxMPA has members from Texas, the country's largest truck market, including personnel from TxGarage, Outdoor4X magazine, Let's Talk Wheels, iHeartVehicles, KCBQ AM, CarProUSA, and Estate Life Magazines.

Each spring the organization hosts the Texas Off-Road Invitational, an off-roading event where members test drive vehicles in challenging off-road conditions, interview vehicle engineers and product planners, and take a deep dive into the mechanics and design of the vehicles. ATVs and UTVs are welcome at this event. At the end of the Invitational, voting members register their votes for Texas Off-Road Truck of the Year, Texas Off-Road SUV of the Year, Texas Off-Road ATV of the Year, and Texas Off-Road UTV of the Year. The winners are announced that day.

In the late autumn, TxMPA hosts TxTalks, a day of Ted Talk-like speeches and interviews exclusively for members that allows attendees to expand their knowledge in a variety of automotive and professional development topics.

The TxMPA is led by President Michael Herzing, Vice President Eileen Falkenberg-Hull, and a Board of Directors consisting of Alan Gell, Bill Owney, Michael Garfield, and Greg Riley.

Anyone interested in TxMPA membership as an industry, journalist, influencer, or sponsor is encouraged to go to: https://texasmotorpress.com

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