NASCAR heads back to Daytona for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 253

Start your engines! Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images.

This week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads back to the beaches of Daytona for the O'Riley Auto Parts 253 on the Daytona Road Course. This will be the third time that the Cup Series has raced on the road course configuration. For years, it was rumored that they would race on this configuration and last year they got their chance to put the Daytona Road Course into action. This race came with a lot of hype as there would be no practice or qualifying on a configuration that hadn't been raced on but overall the race was relatively tame as Chase Elliott cruised to victory. This race has a lot of potential to be much more action packed considering the drivers have more track time. Besides, if this race is exciting as the Clash, I think we are in for a really good one.

Turn one should be the corner to look out for. This has been where most of the issues have come as drivers have a tendency to overshoot the corner like we saw with Ryan Blaney in the Clash. Look out for this come Sunday. Another big point of interest will be the removal of the rumble strips. These caused a lot of issues in the Clash as drivers such as Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick both crashed after hitting them. This should fix a lot of the issues we have seen.

Last week, Michael McDowell shocked the world by winning the Daytona 500. Coming into this race, McDowell was a +6600 underdog to win. While it might have been a surprise to a lot of people, this was a long time coming for the Arizona driver. Every time they went to Daytona or Talladega, that yellow #34 Mustang has been consistently fast. If there was anyone who could pull off the upset, he was a prime candidate. It was good to see him finally get his first win after going winless in his previous 357 starts. This was the longest drought since Michael Waltrip won his first race almost twenty years to the date at Daytona in 2001. It will be interesting to see if McDowell can build on this as he has now clinched a birth into this year's playoffs.

The big storyline this week was the last lap crash between teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. In almost a carbon copy of last year, the two tangled in the late stages once again. When getting out of his car, Brad threw his helmet at his car in disgust. He was also heard on the radio saying, "My teammate wrecked me to win the Daytona 500." This led to speculation once again about the dynamic at Penske racing. I personally believe that this should blow over like it did last year, and we should see Brad return to Penske in 2022. Time will tell what's next over at Penske Racing.

The favorite going into Sunday is Chase Elliott. In the past four road course races, Chase has won all of them. He has become the king of the road on this hot streak. He also won here last year in convincing fashion when he led over half of the race. I could very well see him going five for five and winning again. In fact, he was one corner away from winning the Clash but mistakenly wrecked Ryan Blaney and lost the lead to Kyle Busch. Look for Elliott to be the car to beat on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this week is Martin Truex Jr. While Elliott has been in the limelight, Truex has been the next car behind him when it comes to speed. Overall, Truex is a pretty good road course racer as he has won four of these in his career. Even before he was at Gibbs, he was fast on these types of tracks as he won a race at Sonoma back in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing. He and Chase have had some great battles on road courses but this time, I think Truex will come out on top. Besides, he was well on his way to winning here two weeks ago but hit the curve and crashed from the lead. If he can be as good as he was then, there is no reason he can't close the deal and capture his fifth road course victory. Look for MTJ to take the victory on Sunday.

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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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