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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome