THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Gander Outdoors 400 preview; rules updates

NASCAR Gander Outdoors 400 preview; rules updates
Ryan Blaney was a winner last week. Ryanblaney.com

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Dover Delaware for the first race of the round of 12. Last week, Ryan Blaney advanced to the next round after taking the checkered flag in the inaugural Charlotte Bank Of America Roval 400. The race was one of the highlights of the season as both Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. both spun in the final corner paving the way for Blaney to swoop in and steal the victory. This week, we go to a much different type of track in Dover. The last time the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup came here, Kevin Harvick thoroughly dominated after leading a race high 201 laps en route to his third victory of the season. While it’s the same track, the stakes will be much higher as one of the 12 drivers in the playoff field will look to clinch a berth into the round of eight and be one step closer to racing for a championship at Homestead.

Earlier this week there were some major announcements regarding next year’s rules package.  Next season, NASCAR announced wholesale changes to the cars including limiting horsepower to 550, a smaller rear spoiler and a “tapered spacer” to restrict speeds on the cars and keep them closer together. The move was met with major criticism by not only fans but former drivers as well. The one thing that truly upset them was how NASCAR decided to cut back on horsepower. They think that these changes take the challenging aspect of racing out of the drivers' hands and that they are running too slow. Personally, I think it would only be fair to give it a chance and to see how it works out; besides if it’s anything like the all-star race, as I stated in the last article, the fans will be quick to change their tone and it should grow on them.

There will be two new rookies in the Cup Series in 2019, Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 31 Caterpillar Camaro for Richard Childress and Ryan Preece will drive the No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty racing. Both drivers are coming off successful Xfinity campaigns and now will now get the call-up to drive in big leagues. I personally believe that the move to call Hemric up was due to happen at some point as he had been running so well in the Xfinity Series but the move to call  Preece up was a bit surprising, While it is clear that he is a threat every time he races, many believe that his limited schedule in the lower divisions will make things more difficult in the Cup series. Only time will tell for the two but it is refreshing to see two drivers that worked incredibly hard and didn’t have a lot of help get their chance in the big time.

The driver that I have winning this week is Joey Logano. Coming into this race, Logano has been quietly flying under the radar. Last week, he emerged through the carnage to capture a 10th place finish and moved on to the next round and though he wasn’t talked about a lot as a contender, he stayed out of trouble. This week should be a different story for him. Overall, stats wise this track falls right in the middle for Logano. Over the course of his 19 starts here, He currently has three top fives and ten top 10s. While he hasn’t been exactly been a threat to win at Dover he has always been around the top 10 plus both of his teammates have also been running well so now it is his time to shine. Look for Logano to take the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil fusion to victory lane.

One of the sleepers to look out for this week is the young William Byron. This has been an up and down season for this year’s rookie of the year but this week should be a good change of pace for this young man. In his debut here, he went on to a 14th place finish and while that may not look that great on the surface, it should be noted that Dover is one of the tougher race tracks on the surface and to come in and have a solid top 15 really says a lot about his ability. He is looking to rebound after a tough race last week at the roval when he was swept up in a multi-car crash with seven laps to go. This week he should rebound and get a top 10 result as he continues to grow and develop into NASCAR’s next star.

(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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Braves beat Houston in extra innings, 5-4. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Marcell Ozuna hit his major league-leading eighth homer and Orlando Arcia’s RBI single in the 10th inning lifted the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

It completes a three-game sweep of the struggling Astros and is Atlanta’s fourth straight victory.

The Braves scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie it at 4-4. Michael Harris II started the 10th as the automatic runner on second and there was one out in the inning when Seth Martinez (1-1) intentionally walked Matt Olson.

Ozuna lined out to right field to send Harris to third base. Arcia then singled on a ground ball to left field to score Harris and put the Braves on top.

Pinch-runner Jake Meyers was on second when Kyle Tucker walked with no outs in the 10th. Meyers moved to third on a fly out by Yainer Diaz but Jeremy Peña grounded into a double play to end it.

A.J. Minter (3-1) got the last two outs of the ninth for the win and Raisel Iglesias earned his fifth save.

Reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. added his first homer of the season to help the Braves to the victory. Ozuna also leads the majors with 23 RBIs and he extended his hitting streak to 16 games, which ties his career best and is the longest active streak in the majors.

Yordan Alvarez and Mauricio Dubón both homered for the Astros, who fell to 6-14 and are last in the AL West.

There was one out in the first when Alvarez connected on his homer to the seats in left field to put Houston up 1-0.

Ozuna opened the second with his 432-foot shot to left field, which bounced off the wall and tied the game.

Acuña put the Braves up 2-1 when he sent the first pitch of the fifth inning to straightaway center field.

The Astros tied it on an RBI single by Alex Bregman in the fifth and Kyle Tucker’s RBI double came next to put the Astros up 3-2.

Dubón hit his first home run of the year off Jesse Chavez to start Houston’s sixth and push the lead to 4-2.

Harris singled to start the seventh before a ground-rule double by Austin Riley. Olson reached, and Harris scored on a fielding error by first baseman José Abreu when he couldn’t grab a routine ground ball.

There was one out in the inning when Riley scored on a sacrifice fly by Arcia to tie it at 4-all.

Houston starter J.P. France allowed four hits and two runs in five innings.

Max Fried gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings.

UP NEXT

Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a series against Texas on Friday night with LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 4.58 ERA) on the mound.

Astros: Houston is also off Thursday before ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night against Washington. The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

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