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 winning streak moves to six

Eighth-inning rally powers Astros to series sweep over Rangers

Yuli Gurriel brought in the go-ahead run late in Sunday's game. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Winners in the first three games of this series and their last five games overall, the Astros continued their climb towards the A's for first place in the AL West. They completed the four-game sweep, ending a successful homestand on a positive note before heading on the road.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 24-17, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Joely Rodriguez (1-2)

Astros strike first, McCullers Jr. goes six scoreless

After the Rangers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Houston grabbed an early lead off the bat of Alex Bregman. He provided the third single of the inning, a one-out RBI to put the Astros in front 1-0, a score which would hold steady for a while. Another run didn't come across until the bottom of the fifth when Houston would load the bases with one out when Carlos Correa would get an RBI groundball to double the lead to 2-0.

Lance McCullers Jr. did well with the small lead, backing up his recent eight-inning gem with a quality start against Texas. He allowed a couple of hits each in the third and fourth but would erase the runners with no damage allowed. The Rangers threatened in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double before the runner moved to third on a wild pitch, putting him in a great position with no outs. McCullers Jr. would come away unscathed, finishing the inning and his day by retiring the next three batters. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 P.

Rangers tie it against Scrubb

First out of Houston's bullpen was Andre Scrubb, and he would not fare as well as the Astros starter. A leadoff single turned into a two-run game-tying homer, making it 2-2 before Scrubb would sit down the next three in order. Still tied in the top of the eighth, Brooks Raley had a terrific inning, striking out the three batters he faced.

Houston rallies ahead in the eighth for the four-game sweep

The top of Houston's order mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with one out to try and regain the lead. Yuli Gurriel would come through with the go-ahead at-bat, getting a sac fly to put the Astros back in front 3-2. A two-out walk loaded the bases again, setting up Chas McCormick to provide two insurance runs on a two-RBI single.

Myles Straw added one more on an RBI single, making it a four-run game at 6-2 heading to the ninth. Enoli Paredes made his long-awaited return from the IL, appearing for the first time since April 8th to try and close things out in the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning, finishing off the four-game sweep, extending Houston's winning streak to six games, and keeping them in step with Oakland for the AL West lead.

Up Next: After a day off on Monday, the Astros will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday. They'll kick off a three-game set in Oakland against the A's at 8:40 PM, an exciting matchup to determine who will head into the weekend atop the division. While Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) is the expected starter for Houston, Oakland has not yet determined their rotation for the series.

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