The Left Turn

NASCAR Gander Outdoors 400 preview

Martin Truex has been dominant this season. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

For the second time in 2018, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Pocono Raceway for the Gander Outdoors 400. The last time the Cup guys went to the tricky triangle, Martin Truex Jr claimed his second victory of the 2018 season. This victory set the tone for an incredible run of success. In the last seven races since the Pocono 400,  he has claimed three victories and three top fives. Other than an 18th place finish at Michigan, Truex has not finished worse than fourth. His average finish over this span is an incredible 4.42. This team has simply not made mistakes, they have been up front and winning stages and most importantly winning races as well. Look For Truex to win many more races in the future.

This season has been dominated by “the Big Three” Consisting of Truex, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and last weekend was no different. Kevin Harvick went on to take his sixth victory of the season after he bumped his championship rival Kyle Busch out of the way with seven laps remaining. After the race, when asked about the move Busch responded with “How you race is how you get raced so it’s fine.” Both of these drivers have a history of getting into altercations on and off the racetrack and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Anytime Harvick and Busch are close on the racetrack, it’s always must see TV. Look for Busch to try and return the favor later on in the season.

Ryan Newman was one of the bigger surprises of the race after he was able to claim a sixth place finish for his fifth top ten of the season. For the most part, 2018 has been a disappointment for  the one they call the Rocket Man. He currently sits 18th in points and has only led a total of 44 laps all season so it was good for him and his team to get a good result at a track Newman has always performed well at. While this week's race at Pocono hasn’t exactly been a track he is known for having success during the last few years,  I can see him building off last week’s result and getting another solid run to try and improve his chances to make the playoffs. He will definitely be one to watch on Sunday at Pocono.

The favorite to win this week is Brad Keselowski. Of all the storylines this season, one can argue that the 2012 champion not winning a race this deep into the season is one of the biggest surprises of the year. This season hasn’t been bad by any means for him but after his championship-caliber season last year, many would have thought he would have gone to victory lane by now. This week there is a good possibility that may change. Going into this race, he has nine top fives and one win here and everytime they come here he is always leading laps and is in contention. He just seems to understand how to get around this place almost better than anyone else. He should be a threat to go to victory lane on Sunday.

My prediction for this week is Kurt Busch. This week, he comes to a track where he has run well before. He has three wins here including his last victory in 2016. While he struggled here the last time they came in June with an 19th place finish, I can see Busch turning it around and getting his first win of the season, continuing the Stewart-Haas dominance we have seen all year. Look for Busch to take his first checkered flag of the year and clinch his spot in this year’s playoffs.  

(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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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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