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 Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

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