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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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