THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Food City 500 preview and predictions

Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR heads to Thunder Valley on Sunday for the Food City 500. This will be the first short track race of the season as the guys will make a quick turnaround after running their second race at Charlotte on Thursday. This track is easily one of the most intense and high intensity type racetracks on the schedule. It's a 0.5 mile one groove race track with twenty-six degrees of banking in the corners. Its layout is similar to the nearby Nashville Fairgrounds.

This track is known for its close quarter beatin' and bangin' type racing, so there's a good chance that somewhere along the line someone will put the bumper to someone else which could cause upset drivers at the end of the race. The one thing I am looking forward to during this race is the return of the 750 horsepower package. Over the last couple of years this has provided the best finishes of the season including a fantastic battle between Denny Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto last fall. Should Mother Nature cooperate this race will definitely be a good one.

On Wednesday when we were all ready to go racing, Mother Nature had other ideas as the race was postponed to Thursday. When the green flag flew, it appeared as if Joey Logano would be the car to beat as he went on to take the first stage of the race. But after that, he faded to fourth after Alex Bowman and Kevin Harvick took over the top two spots. They would battle it out until the late stages of the race when Bowman smacked the wall in turn four ending his chances of victory.

Later, when it seemed like Kevin Harvick was able to get away with twenty-eight to go, Chase Elliott took over the lead and never looked back as he went on to take the victory. It was finally sweet redemption for NASCAR's most popular driver. After the heartbreak of the 600 and Darlington, lady luck finally smiled upon the #9 Camaro. With the victory, Chase and his team proved that they are a force to be reckoned with all throughout the 2020 season.

While Elliott might have taken most of the spotlight, a driver that had a great result was Ricky Stenhouse Jr as he went on to finish 4th. When the teams got to Daytona, things seemed promising for the Mississippi driver as he won the pole for the 500 and seemed to be in contention, but late in the race things went haywire after crashing entering pit-road ending his chances. As the season went on the struggles continued. His average finish over the last five races would be 22nd including a disastrous lap one crash in the return race at Darlington.

Overall, while it wasn't a winning result, Ricky's #47 Krogers Camaro showed great progress as he was able to drive all the way to the top three at one point and looked to have a car to contend with Elliott and Harvick for a while. It is good to see this driver run well considering how much criticism he has received over the last couple of years. I look for him to follow up at Bristol with another good run.

The driver I think will win this weekend is Matt DiBenedetto. Now I am sure you may think I am going on a limb here but let's not forget, Dibenedetto had this race won in the fall until he collided with the lapped car of Ryan Newman. He comes to this track in a great situation and has been running extremely well this year as he finished 2nd at Las Vegas and is currently in the playoffs. As we all know, he has come from the small teams like the now defunct BK Racing. He has made the steep climb to where he is now and this week, I think he will give this historic team their 100th career victory and punch their ticket to the playoffs.

(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 websites for all NASCAR stats)

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The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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