NASCAR: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 preview, picks

Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Atlanta Superspeedway and its new configuration for the Folds Of Honor QuickTrip 500. The track’s banking is much wider and the front stretch has been completely revamped. After some test runs, Cup Series regulars Chris Buescher and Ross Chastain described the new track layout akin to a mile and a half version of Daytona International Speedway. An interesting caveat to this race we’re hearing is the similarities to pack races we see at larger tracks, like Talladega. This is uncommon with smaller tracks, such as Atlanta. We are in for quite the unknown on how this will play out come Sunday when the green flag drops. The race will also feature the yellow line rule we see on those tracks as well, it will be important for drivers to stay on the racing surface when passing.

Last week, Chase Briscoe went on to capture his first career victory at Phoenix Raceway. Briscoe made the race-winning pass on Ryan Blaney with 14 laps remaining and never looked back en route to the victory. Throughout the course of the season, Briscoe has been showing great signs of improvement from his rookie season, and It was only a matter of time before he would get his first victory.

For the past couple of seasons, I’ve had high praise for California driver Tyler Reddick. He continues to impress week in and week out, and last week’s third-place effort was no different. Each race, he just gets closer and closer to that elusive first victory. Over the past four races, no one has led as many laps and if it wasn’t for a flat tire, there is no doubt that he would have won at California. It has been a thrill to follow his improvement from his rookie season to now. All he needs is a clean race and much like Briscoe, he will get that first career victory.

While Briscoe and Reddick are in the midst of a hot streak, on the opposite end of the spectrum lies Austin Cindric. It’s been rough sledding for the rookie after his surprise victory at Daytona. He’s been in a bit of a slump with multiple accidents at Auto-Club and Las Vegas and a poor 24th place finish at Phoenix. There could be a multitude of reasons for this, including his inexperience and this new racecar. On a positive note, they have shown how fast they are on superspeedways, so Atlanta can be a chance to turn it around for the #2 team

While there have been so many impressive showings from the new drivers, in the end, the cream always finds a way to the top and the familiar faces usually come out ahead. This week will be no different as the driver I have winning is Kevin Harvick. Last season was quite possibly his most disappointing as he failed to win a race for the first time during his tenure at Stewart-Haas racing. At first, Harvick and his team were considered the championship favorite, but in the end, 2021 just was not their year, and now they are coming back with a vengeance. After an impressive sixth-place finish last week in Phoenix, this team seems to be on a much more consistent path and closer to a victory. And what better place to go back to victory lane than the track where he got his first win. Look for Harvick to continue to build off his teammate’s victory with a win of his own come Sunday.

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It's Draft SZN! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

On Thursday June 22, the NBA will hold their annual draft. With the Rockets owning the number four overall pick, you'd think things would be looking up for them. However, in a draft where the top three players are all expected to be immediate impact guys, the drop begins where the Rockets are selecting. Armed with some young talent, cap space, and a new head coach, the Rockets are looked at as a team on the rise. But what will help contribute to that rise?

When you have assets, you have options. There are three main options I see here for the Rockets with number four: keep the pick and select the guy you think will work best moving forward; trade up to select the guy they feel they missed out on that isn't a punk Frenchie who dislikes Houston; or trade the pick for an established star. The other option is trading the pick for a good player and a future pick/s. Let's take a look at the options:

Option 1: Keeping the pick means you're drafting the leftovers. Those leftovers start with Amen Thompson. He's the guy I believe can come in and help sooner rather than later. At 6'7 and 215 pounds, he has an NBA body. His skill set can come in handy because he's played point guard. This team could use a true point guard, but Thompson isn't exactly a traditional point. He has the size of a wing player, which allows him to see over the top of the defense. His outside shooting is abysmal and needs a vast improvement. To me, adjusting to life as a pro without his twin brother Ausar, another good draft prospect himself, will be difficult. Overall, I believe he's the guy to take at four if they decide to stay.

Option 2: Trading up to get Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller may prove to be difficult. Both teams picking ahead of the Rockets have their point guards. Charlotte wants to find Lamelo Ball a running mate and have their eyes rumored to be set on Miller. Portland is trying their best to keep Dame Lillard happy. The Rockets would be best served to trade with either team willing to move down for whatever they offer, provided it's worthwhile. Portland was just in the playoffs the last few years and aren't as far out as some would think. They're the ones I'd eye to trade with. Speaking of Portland and Dame…

Option 3: The Rockets need a point guard and Dame may be looking to get out. Help them start their rebuild and bring Dame to Houston. Or, how about the Jaylen Brown rumors? Fred VanVleet has a player option for next season, then becomes an unrestricted free agent. There are a few options of finding veteran help around the league, especially at the point. Problem is, are any of these team willing to take the Rockets' offers? It'd start with number four, and include other assets as well. This option makes sense if the organization believes the roster, with whatever vet addition they make via trade, is playoff ready.

Option 4: The last option I thought about is to trade the pick for a first rounder in next year's draft and a decent player. I see this as a last resort of sorts. But only if they do not feel comfortable with whatever player they may take. That, and if they want to save cap space for next free agency period. Not having a first rounder next year isn't as bad as one might think. The team will need to make the necessary moves this offseason to ensure that won't be an issue next draft. FOMO is real, especially when a team is rebuilding and can't use one of the best/cheapest forms of acquiring top talent.

I talked with my good friend “TC.” The guy loves basketball and even hips me to a bunch of stuff. He wants them to move up in the draft for Scoot or Miller. While he is a James Harden fan, he doesn't necessarily want him back. He wouldn't mind it, but it's not his first option. I've spoken with a lot of native Houstonians about this. They all want a winner sooner than later, but have different philosophies on how to get there. Personally, I say options two and three are my faves. Trade the pick for help, rookie or vet, and go from there. I guess we'll have to wait three more weeks before we find out. Or will we…

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