THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 preview and predictions

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Hampton, Georgia for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Originally this race was slated to be run in March as the teams were all set to go at the racetrack but it was discovered that a track attendant had tested positive for coronavirus and the race was cancelled. While there was a plan in place to complete the race without fans and without practice and qualifying, those were quickly scrapped and the race was cancelled. It will be good to see the race finally get made up as NASCAR returns slightly to normal. In this race it will be expected that we see a lot of cars that are spread out all around the track, similarly to what we saw at Charlotte. With this track having a much rougher surface though, there will definitely be a more difficult path to victory lane.

Last week, Brad Keselowski captured his thirty-second career victory after getting around the crashing cars of Joey Logano and Chase Elliott in turns three and four with three laps to go. He was able to fend off Clint Bowyer for his second win of the season. After the race, Elliott and Logano were involved in a somewhat heated discussion. When it was all settled, Logano was none too pleased with Elliott and his reluctance to own up to the incident, which he didn't. It was fairly odd seeing the most popular driver in the sport in Chase Elliott make not only the mistake of wrecking Logano, but to not own up to it and apologize. Especially considering how many times he has been run over during the course of his four-year career. It will be interesting to see if this escalates going forward.

Needless to say, Brad Keselowski was more than likely one of the few drivers out there that was happy with the way things ended as he once again found himself in the right place at the right time for the second time in 2020 as he went on to capture another victory. Even though it was sort of a slow start for the Michigander, Brad has really come alive in these last few weeks. While the circumstances might have seemed lucky, he has been almost flawless ever since the return from break. Aside from a thirteenth place finish at Darlington, Brad has yet to finish outside of the top ten. He is beginning to establish himself as a real threat for the title. I look for Brad to be one to watch on Sunday as well considering he has won two of the last three races here.

The big headline this week was the announcement that NASCAR will be returning to Nashville Superspeedway next season. This came as a surprise considering the hype surrounding neighboring track the Nashville Fairgrounds. There was talk that the sport would return to the legendary short-track and it is still entirely possible as NASCAR hopes that ticket sales for the race at the Superspeedway can help fund the renovations needed to bring the sport to the short-track. Over the course of its history, Nashville Superspeedway has only held races for the truck and Xfinity series and will now host cup races for the first time.

While the people of Nashville will certainly be happy to see a race back in their area, it comes at a price as Dover International Raceway will lose one of its dates. This could become common practice for a lot of tracks that have two dates as more than likely Nashville won't be the only new track on the schedule next season. Overall, I am extremely surprised that this track is getting the call up to the Cup Series considering there hasn't been a race there since 2011. But it will be good to see NASCAR get back to one of it's most popular markets and hopefully in the future we can potentially see a double header with the short-track. I look forward to seeing what the new tracks will be in July when NASCAR makes the announcement.

The driver I have winning this week is Clint Bowyer. Over the last few weeks, Bowyer has been extremely fast but something has happened that has ruined his day. After last week's second place finish at Bristol, I think that Clint Bowyer is due for a victory. As we all know, there is a lot of speculation going around about Clint's future in the sport, many already have him transitioning to the booth next season at Fox with Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy. I believe there is still some wins on the table for this veteran and this track would make the most sense for one. Over the last two races there, Bowyer has an average finish of fourth place, so we know he can run up front. Another thing to look out for is where Bowyer will be starting come Sunday as he rolls off fifth. At a place like Atlanta, track position is key, and he will have that working to his advantage. I look for Bowyer to take the #14 Rush Trucking Mustang back to victory lane and finally ending his winless streak.

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 offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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