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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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Eric Gordon has lost a tremendous amount weight during the shutdown. His biggest aspiration is to stay healthy and be more fit for the shorter season. He told the media that he feels confident about this team, and is optimistic about getting his shot back consistently.

"Everybody knows we're a dangerous team. We can beat anybody, and we can beat ourselves" said Gordon. "It's all about finding that consistent path. There are only eight games and playoffs around the corner, we have to be dominant from start to finish."

Gordon is at a career low shooting 37 percent from the field this season, while playing in only 34 games. During the season he went through a couple of injuries while averaging 14.5 points per game. For Gordon to be productive he needs to remain healthy so the Rockets can be successful. If Russell Westbrook or James Harden are off to a bad start, Gordon is a great weapon to go to. Even though Gordon's stats dropped from the previous two years, there can always be a quick turnaround.

Gordon's injury caused him to miss quite a bit of time, so it was hard for him to get back in rhythm. That can always throw a great shooter like Gordon off. The quarantine allowed Gordon to get healthy and practice his shot more. Before the season started, Gordon signed a four-year, $76 million contract extension. Daryl Morey is extremely confident about having Gordon on the Rockets. Morey was seen working with Gordon after practice Tuesday.

Mike D'Antoni has loved the way Gordon has looked on the court. As D'Antoni watched the Rockets five on five practice, he's been observing Gordon very carefully.

"He hasn't missed a rep. Looks good. Shooting the ball extremely well," said D'Antoni during the Zoom press conference. "Getting Eric Gordon in the groove and getting him going is very important. And also, getting the other guys to be able to maybe even have more opportunities."

When Gordon is consistent and healthy, it is a scary sight to opposing teams.

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