THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR goes road course racing on the Charlotte Roval

Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the Charlotte Roval this week for the final race of the round of 12. The layout at Charlotte Motor Speedway has provided some of the craziest racing in history. In the first two races here, the finishes have been insane. In 2018 Jimmie Johnson took himself and Martin Truex Jr out in the final corner coming to the checkered flag and gave the win to Ryan Blaney. Then one year later, Chase Elliott smashed head on into the wall in turn one and came all the way back to win and advance to the round of eight. This is a can't-miss race and I look forward to seeing the chaos and who makes the next round. There is also potential for a race in the rain so look out for that as well.

Last week, Denny Hamlin took his seventh victory of 2020 after a controversial finish. In the last lap of the race, Hamlin took to the apron passing William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher to take the win. The move that Hamlin made was called into question as he very clearly went under the yellow line to pass four cars. After reviewing the finish, NASCAR allowed the win to stand after they determined that Hamlin was "forced below the yellow line." This has been a call that NASCAR has been ridiculously inconsistent on over the years. You can go all the way back to 2008 when they took the win away from Regan Smith after he was in a similar situation with Tony Stewart. They also penalized both Matt DiBenedtto and Chris Buescher for forcing Chase Elliott and Hamlin below the line as well. Overall, I believe that the yellow line rule needs to be amended. When it comes to the last lap, I believe that all bets should be off and anywhere on the racetrack should be fair game. If a driver has to go under the yellow line to make a pass, they should be well within their rights to do so. I hope that NASCAR can rethink this rule and make a change here in the future. I mean, why can it be legal on all the other tracks other than Daytona or Talladega? This needs to change.

This week, there were headlines a plenty as it was finally announced who would drive the #48 Ally Chevy in 2021 and that driver is Alex Bowman. This comes as sort of a surprise as Alex has been driving the #88 car for Hendrick since 2018, so moving him over to the #48 car seems like a lateral move. This leaves a spot open for a fourth Hendrick team as speculation continues to grow that Kyle Larson will return from his suspension and take over Bowman's former car. There is also a possibility that there will be a number change as well. This wasn't the only story at Hendrick as it was announced that legendary Crew-Chief Chad Kanaus will be taking a front office role at Hendrick in 2021 and no longer be on top of the pit-board for William Byron. Needless to say, there will be a whole new Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Friday was also a huge day for news as well as it was announced that Matt DiBenedetto will return to the #21 Ford Mustang for the Wood Brothers in 2021. This is a great sign considering how well he has run over the last two weeks. While his fate is sealed for next season, 2022 becomes a little bit more iffy as Austin Cindric is scheduled to move up to the cup then and take over. This will be an interesting storyline for next season as he looks to continue on his path to be a contending cup driver.

The other major bombshell that was dropped this week was Clint Bowyer as he announced on Twitter that he will be leaving racing at the end of the season and transition to the NASCAR on Fox booth with Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon. While I figured this was coming, I am more surprised by the timing of the decision. Needless to say though, I think Clint will be awesome in the booth as he provides a lot of funny insight and excellent knowledge of the sport. The question now moves to who will drive the #14 Mustang next year and more than likely it is looking like it's going to be Ford Racing phenom Chase Briscoe. This year in the Xfinity Series, he absolutely torn it up winning eight races and is single-handedly the favorite for the championship. I have been a big supporter of this driver since I watched him in the truck series for Brad Keselowski, and he has shown so much talent from the beginning. He will definitely be a contender for years to come.

The driver that I have winning the Roval on Sunday is Kyle Busch. Listen, I know a lot of people have been fading the defending champion and rightfully so. This season has been horrendous for him. He currently sits outside the round of eight and almost needs a win to get to the next round. If you had told me in January that Busch was winless and in jeopardy of not even making it to the round of eight, I would have told you that you were clinically insane. But now I think he can prove everyone wrong and get maybe the most important win of his career. While he hasn't had the results here at the Roval, he has shown a lot of speed and has been in contention. I look for Rowdy to come up with a clutch victory come sunday.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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