THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for Phoenix for the Fan-shield 500

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NASCAR wraps ups its Western swing this week as they head for Phoenix Raceway for the FanShield 500. This track has been a staple on the schedule since its opening in 1988 and will now play host to the season finale in November. The race on Sunday could be a precursor to what we see in the championship race. There should be a lot more attention on this race than there was prior.

Last week in California Alex Bowman went on to his second career victory after putting on a driving clinic. Throughout the day he led a whopping 110 laps and finished EIGHT seconds ahead of second place Kyle Busch. This was easily the most complete race I have seen him run in maybe his career. He has really begun to establish himself as an early championship favorite considering how competitive he has been this season. The success has really come at a great time for him considering that this is a contract year for him. If he can continue to run the way he does, it will be hard for Hendrick to let him go come season's end.

It was announced Monday that next season's new car will only have one lug-nut and many fans were NOT happy about it. The main criticism that people had was it was much too similar to F1 and how there aren't any cars on the road that have a single lug nut and honestly these sentiments are kind of ridiculous. I honestly have no idea why these fans continue to make such big deals out of things that won't really change much. Multiple experts have stated that using the traditional five lug-nuts would cause a safety issue that could possibly cause more wrecks or broken tires and certainly fans wouldn't want to see their favorite drivers go out with any mechanical issues. I applaud NASCAR for making this decision; they don't always make the right decision but this was something that they had to do. Overall, I think that there is a lot more positive than negative when it comes to this new car, the spoiler is much lower, there is less emphasis on down-force and from what many people are saying this car will be much more difficult to drive. During a test session, Willam Byron crashed one of the new cars, I also heard that Erik Jones also had issues with it as well so it should be interesting to see what happens.

The favorite coming into this week has to be Kevin Harvick. Every time the sport comes here, you can almost pencil him in as the winner considering he has won here nine times. For some reason, he has a real knack for this track. It could be because this is where the vetran cut his teeth here in the early days of his career in the NASCAR Southwest late model tour in the mid 90s so he could have leg up on the competition just from the amount of experience he has here. He will be hard to beat when the green flag drops.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is the driver I talked about earlier and that's Bowman. As we know this team's success has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2020 season. I think that this week, they will continue to shine and go to victory lane for a second consecutive week. Over time, this team has really begun to mesh not just on the track but off it as well as they all plan to get victory tattoos. It has really been a treat to see this driver mature into a race winner. This track is also special to him considering it's his home track. Look for Bowman to stay hot and go to victory lane again on Sunday.

(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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Eric Gordon has lost a tremendous amount weight during the shutdown. His biggest aspiration is to stay healthy and be more fit for the shorter season. He told the media that he feels confident about this team, and is optimistic about getting his shot back consistently.

"Everybody knows we're a dangerous team. We can beat anybody, and we can beat ourselves" said Gordon. "It's all about finding that consistent path. There are only eight games and playoffs around the corner, we have to be dominant from start to finish."

Gordon is at a career low shooting 37 percent from the field this season, while playing in only 34 games. During the season he went through a couple of injuries while averaging 14.5 points per game. For Gordon to be productive he needs to remain healthy so the Rockets can be successful. If Russell Westbrook or James Harden are off to a bad start, Gordon is a great weapon to go to. Even though Gordon's stats dropped from the previous two years, there can always be a quick turnaround.

Gordon's injury caused him to miss quite a bit of time, so it was hard for him to get back in rhythm. That can always throw a great shooter like Gordon off. The quarantine allowed Gordon to get healthy and practice his shot more. Before the season started, Gordon signed a four-year, $76 million contract extension. Daryl Morey is extremely confident about having Gordon on the Rockets. Morey was seen working with Gordon after practice Tuesday.

Mike D'Antoni has loved the way Gordon has looked on the court. As D'Antoni watched the Rockets five on five practice, he's been observing Gordon very carefully.

"He hasn't missed a rep. Looks good. Shooting the ball extremely well," said D'Antoni during the Zoom press conference. "Getting Eric Gordon in the groove and getting him going is very important. And also, getting the other guys to be able to maybe even have more opportunities."

When Gordon is consistent and healthy, it is a scary sight to opposing teams.

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