The Monster Energy Cup Series makes its annual trip to New England for the Foxtrot Hotel and Casino 301

NASCAR heads for New Hampshire

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Casino 301. This track is fairly enigmatic as it's considered a one mile oval but races like a short track. As we saw in this race last season with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, this track is no stranger to beating and banging. One characteristic about it that makes it so unique is its banking or lack thereof. Overall, the corners are as flat as they come so it's difficult to find the best line around the racetrack. It should be interesting come Sunday.

Last week Kurt Busch was able to fend off his younger brother Kyle in one of the best battles in NASCAR history. In the closing stages, it looked like Joey Logano was on his way to his third win of the season but with six laps to go, the caution came out after Darrell Wallace Jr spun in turn two. This caution would set up for a green/white/checkered restart and it was one for the ages. When the race resumed, Kyle, Kurt and Erik Jones all battled for the lead but when the dust settled, it came down to both Busch Brothers and Kurt was able to prevail. This was Kurt's first victory for his new team at Chip Ganassi racing and also the first victory for the #1 car since 2013 when Jamie McMurray won at Talladega. It was great to see both brothers get to race heads up for the win. This is not the first time both of these drivers have finished 1-2, this year at Bristol the roles were reversed as Kyle was able to take the victory. As we have moved past half-way It has been a great season for the 2004 Champion and he should be one of the drivers to watch as the regular season starts to wind down. While Kurt and his team were celebrating the thrill of victory, Joey Logano and his team experienced the agony of defeat. In the closing stages, Joey appeared to have the fastest car on the track. He was able to catch and then pass Kyle Busch for the lead and was driving away from everyone but as we all know, this is NASCAR and it's never over till it's over. On the final restart, he fell all the way back to seventh. This just goes to show that you never really know what to expect when it comes to this sport and that's what everyone loves when they tune in to watch.

Even after last week's festivities, Kyle Busch remains the favorite to win this week. Over the course of his career, Kyle has won here three times. This is a track that he figured out fairly quickly considering he won here in his second full-time season back in 2006. It is a track that is somewhat similar to the bull-ring he raced on when he was in the beginning of his racing career so it has seemed to translate over into his Cup efforts here, he should be fast he as always. Look for Kyle to bounce back from last week's heartbreak.

The driver that I have winning this week is Aric Almirola. While this may come as a surprise to some, Aric has really started to consistently run well. Aside from his teammate Kevin Harvick, he has the best average finish amongst the Stewart-Haas racing drivers at 13.53. While on the surface it might not look all that impressive, he continues to run around the top five week in and week out and one thing that doesn't get talked about as much is how great he was here last year. In the final 45 laps, he appeared to be in a great spot as he was leading and driving away until a caution came out and swayed his momentum. This year, I think it will be much different and I can see him having a breakthrough race and getting to victory lane and get the first win of the season for Stewart-Haas. Look for Aric and the #10 Ford to go to victory lane.


(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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