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 first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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