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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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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