THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 preview

Kyle Busch looks like he will be in the mix this week. Kylebusch.com

NASCAR heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway  this weekend for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. Opened in 1990, this track is a 1.6 mile oval with absolutely no banking whatsoever and while technically it isn’t considered a short track, the track is known to be difficult to pass at due to its flat surface. Another unique aspect of this race is its distance. In 2008, then title sponsor Lenox Industrial Tools decided to add a lap as an ode to their employees and suppliers who “go the extra mile.” Even though the title sponsor has changed, the race distance became a crowd favorite and stuck around one decade later. This distance gives the second place driver one more chance to go and run down the leader and take the victory.

Last week at Kentucky, Martin Truex Jr went on to claim his fourth win of 2018 as he led a race high 174 laps. From the drop of the green flag, it was clear that the race would be for second place as Truex dominated every aspect of the weekend. He qualified on pole Thursday and was able to win all three stages of the race and claim maximum playoff and regular season points. It would appear now that Truex and his Furniture Row racing team are the guys to beat. Of the last four races, They have won two (Sonoma and Kentucky) and have not finished worse than fourth. However this week should be a little more challenging for the reigning champion. While, he has run pretty good here at New Hampshire, Truex has an average finish of 12.95. He has a total of five top 5’s and ten 10 10’s respectively but with all of these numbers, This is one of the tracks that he has never won at. Look for him to try and change that come Sunday.

The top storyline coming out of last week's race was the verbal sparring between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Kyle Busch. If you are a fan of NASCAR, you know Kyle Busch getting into a “feud” with another driver is nothing new as he is easily the most outspoken driver in the garage. After the two were involved in an incident two weeks ago at Daytona, Busch took exception to Stenhouse not “reaching out” and apologizing for crashing him.

When asked if it would change how he would race Stenhouse, he replied with “I can’t worry about people who are that far back in the field.” Stenhouse responded by saying that “Busch should pick and choose his battles wisely” and he felt he didn’t need to reach out to Busch because he “ran his mouth enough.” P

ersonally, I think that both drivers should go out and confront each other rather than talk about each other through the media like they did this weekend. Both drivers do make good points though, Stenhouse Jr probably should have called  and apologized for nearly turning Busch head on into the wall but Busch’s comments only added fuel to the fire. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t foresee this riff extending to the race track due to scrutiny that these drivers go through by the powers that be but it sure gave more talking points to a race that was fairly uneventful. Keep an eye out for when these two are close together on the track.

Appropriately enough, the favorite going into this weekend is Busch. In his 26 starts, Busch has won here three times including last year's fall race. Anytime the Cup series comes here, most experts pick him to win here and usually he does. Of all of the active drivers, he and Matt Kenseth have the most wins with three. Look for the No. 18 Interstate batteries Toyota to be the car to beat this weekend.

My pick to win this weekend is the other Kyle in the field -- no not Kyle Weatherman -- Kyle Larson. All year, he has come so close but for whatever reason luck just hasn’t been on his side but this week I think it should be a different outcome for him. In his last four starts here, he has a 7.75 average finishing position including a second place finish in the fall race last year. Look for lady luck to finally be on his side as Larson will take the checkered flag and solidify his spot in the “playoffs.”

One of my sleepers this week is Matt Kenseth. This week Kenseth is returning from a three week hiatus and while it’s been a season to forget so far for him, New Hampshire is easily his best track. In his last four starts, he has an average finish of 2.50, the best of anyone in the field and even though he is no longer driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, I still think that he can put together a decent run to get his team back on track. Kenseth should be in contention for a good result on Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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