NASCAR goes dirt racing in Bristol this weekend

The obvious favorite to win this race has to be Kyle Larson. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR is out of their element this week as they head to Bristol Motor Speedway for the inaugural Food City Bristol Dirt Race. This race is easily the most anticipated of the thirty-six others on the schedule as it will be the first NASCAR dirt race since 1970. This race format will be much different from what we see on a typical Sunday, there will be four heat races on Saturday that will determine the starting lineup. The starting order of the heat races will be determined by random draw. Another new feature we will see this week is passing points. These will be awarded to drivers who improve on their starting position in the heat races and will determine where each driver will start. This should be one of the best races of the season, you won't want to miss this one.

Last week, Ryan Blaney was able to pry victory from the clutches of Kyle Larson as he made the race winning pass with six laps to go. All throughout the day, Larson dominated the race. He won both stages and by far had the fastest race car on the track but when he approached the lap car of Joey Logano, he just couldn't get past him. This allowed Logano's teammate Blaney to catch up and take the lead. This victory could be a huge momentum boost for Ryan as he had started off the season a little bit slow, but now he appears to be heading in the right direction.

The big story this week has been the dirt track specialists that will be racing this week. There will be a few new faces that we aren't accustomed to seeing out there but will bring tons of experience and know-how to the Cup. One driver that comes to mind for me is Mike Marlar. Overall, Mike is one of the most talented dirt late model drivers in the country. If you are looking for someone who can drive on dirt, Mike will certainly be one to watch. He's also been good in the trucks at Eldora as he finished fourth in his lone truck start. Another driver to watch out for is Stewart Freesien. As everyone knows, Stewart is a staple in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but he has been the most successful driving dirt late modifieds in Canada. He will certainly be one of the favorites in this race as he has really cut his teeth on dirt. The other two drivers we will see this year are Sprint and Quarter Midget car drivers Shane Golobic and Chris Windom. These guys will certainly make things interesting come Sunday

The obvious favorite to win this race has to be Kyle Larson. While most people know him for other reasons and being maybe the best driver in NASCAR right now, it is also well known that the California driver is a bit of a dirt track specialist as well. Last season while Larson was serving his suspension, this gave him the opportunity to drive his sprint car, and he did not disappoint. He nearly won every race he competed in! If there is anyone more qualified to win here, it has to be Larson just on his background alone. Not only will this surface change help him, but he was fast here when it was pavement too. Look for Larson to be the car to beat come Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this week is Christopher Bell. While most people talk about how great Larson is, Bell isn't too far behind. These two at one point were maybe two of the best drivers when it came down to Quarter Midget racing. The man has over one hundred victories in USAC and the POWRI series and has won some marquee events as well such the Chili Bowl. For my money, I don't know if you can find a better dirt racer than Bell. I look forward to seeing him near the front come Sunday.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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