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 Texans have a big decision to make. Composite image by Jack Brame

The last few weeks have brought us some very interesting episodes of "As Kirby Turns." Cal McNair has admitted he hasn't spoken with Deshaun Watson and has also doubled down on his affinity for Jack Easterby by saying he's staying around. The franchise's only member of their Ring of Honor, Andre Johnson, came completely out of character by tweeting his support for Watson to "stand his ground" in what most assume is his desire to play elsewhere. Newly hired general manager Nick Caserio has the hardest job in the NFL because he's basically a one leg man in a bleep kicking contest. National and local media are all floating rumors and opinions about Watson's status with the team. Meanwhile, Watson himself has been cryptic and hasn't come out and said one thing either way about his status with the team.

My opinion is that he won't be traded and this is his way of using the leverage he has to get some things done his way to ensure more of his career won't be wasted. Once they hire a head coach he approves of and they talk, he'll be back in the fold and blow things over by saying he never demanded a trade and was only upset about some things due to miscommunication. Blah blah blah. However, where there's smoke, there must be fire. I'll examine some pros and cons to a potential trade of Watson.

Bad news first. This franchise has waited its entire existence for a franchise quarterback like Watson. Finally getting one and having to deal him amidst the bumbling owner and charlatan right-hand man would be a big blow to overcome. This coming year is shaping up to be difficult as it is, but doing so with Watson wearing a different jersey could prove to be a near fatal blow. It would take an additional year or so to recover. The only way this timeline is expedited, is if they get a quarterback back in the trade or with one of the draft picks that they feel can be the man moving forward.

The bright side. Watson is this team's most attractive asset as it looks to rebuild. There are teams in the top five of this year's draft who need quarterbacks, and a couple of them have multiple first round picks. The Jets, #2 and #23 overall in the first round this draft, are the most intriguing destination because they may be bad next season with Watson if you get that pick in the trade as well. Throw in Sam Darnold, who's still young and salvageable, and this could be a hard reset that may not take as long. The Dolphins, #3 and #18 overall this draft, also have a lot to offer. Rumor has it Watson would like to go to Miami in a deal that includes Tua Tagovailoa, who was a guy Caserio liked when entering the draft. Again, another potential hard reset that may not take long if either young quarterback pans out. You could also trade back from those top slots to acquire more picks to help fill some of the many holes you have.

I reiterate, I do not believe Watson will be traded. I'm not even sure his no trade clause is applicable since he's still under his rookie contract and his extension hasn't kicked in yet. The new CBA rules call for stiffer penalties for players who refuse to report, so a holdout is highly unlikely. I'll be glad when they hire a coach Watson likes, and we get the happy family press conference introducing him, so this soap opera can move on to its next episode.

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