THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for Phoenix for the Ticket Guardian 500

Joey Logano. Getty Images.


This week the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to the ISM speedway in Avondale, Arizona for their second stop on NASCAR's West Coast swing. This track breaks the sequence of high-banked cookie cutter mile and a half tracks we have seen at Atlanta and Vegas over the past couple of weeks. While by definition this track is listed as a mile and a half, it has many characteristics that are aligned with a short track. The biggest area to watch around is the front straightaway. This part of the speedway will be where a lot of the passes will be made as there is a major elevation change that goes all the way to the inside retaining wall, so look for three and four wide racing around here all throughout the day.

Last week, defending champion Joey Logano held off his teammate Brad Keselowski for his first win in 2019. The race was met with mixed reviews by the NASCAR community. Overall, it was a relatively calm race. For the first time since 2002, there were zero on-track accidents and the only cautions we saw were for the stage breaks. In the weeks building before the race, many fans were told that the racing was going to be close and tightly bunched and there was going to be three wide racing and it would be just like we see on the plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega, so when it wasn't many fans were disenfranchised with how everything went down. But when it was all said and done it wasn't a bad race, there was another near photo finish with Keselowski and Logano, and there was plenty of passing all around the race track. Above all the field was much closer than they were last year around this time. Yes. It's true that it didn't live up to the hype but overall it was a good quality race. I look forward to see them run this package at tracks like Auto Club and Indianapolis.

The driver that I have winning this week is Erik Jones. Now in his third year and a win under his belt, Erik has shown major signs that he will be a championship contender. He finished third at Daytona and then backed it up with a seventh place finish at Atlanta. Even though last week was a bit of a let down for him as he finished 13th, this week he goes to a place where he shines; in fact he has the fifth highest average finish here among all active drivers. Another facet of his success here is his ability to qualify well, he has an 8.8 average starting position and with how important qualifying has been this year, I believe that this will only help him more. Look for Jones to surprise some folks this week and claim his second career victory come Sunday.

One of the dark-horse drivers this week has to be Ryan Newman. He comes to the track where he claimed his last victory in 2017 and while a lot has changed since then including where he drives, the Rocket-man is easily one of the most experienced drivers in the field. It's no secret that it has been a dark time for Roush-Fenway racing but after Newman finished in the top 15 at Atlanta and Stenhouse Jr finished seventh last week at Vegas, it would appear that Jack Roush and his team are trending upward. When the checkered flag falls, Ryan may not win but I really believe that he will get a good finish and I look forward to seeing him wheel the Oscar Meyer Ford Mustang to a top ten.

(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).

NASCAR heads for Martinsville for the first short track race of 2019.

NASCAR STP 400 preview

Kylebusch.com

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the track they call the "paperclip" in Martinsville Virginia for their annual STP 500. Overall, the track is 0.526 miles around with twelve degrees of banking in all four of its corners. It is easily the shortest and most narrow track on the circuit, this will make it extremely difficult for drivers to pass without moving someone out of the way. Not only is the racing unique on the track but off it as well as the winner is awarded with a grandfather clock as their trophy. Look for there to be lots of action all around the track.

Last week, Kyle Busch dominated the Auto Club 400 and went on to capture his 53rd NASCAR Cup series victory. There was much controversy about this victory as it was his 200th victory across all three of NASCAR's divisions. As many fans know, the only other driver to reach 200 wins was the king, Richard Petty. Unlike Kyle Busch, Richard obtained all of his victories in the Cup series leading most to believe that his body of work was superior to Busch's body of work.

While yes, what Richard Petty did was unprecedented and will never be replicated but there are multiple factors to take into account. One is the competition Petty faced. For instance, in Petty's masterful 27 win season in 1967 many of his fiercest competitors like David Pearson did not run the full 49-race schedule, as opposed to Kyle Busch and how he faces the same field we see every week. That year, Pearson ran only 22 races while Petty ran all but one.

Another factor is the money that Petty and his team had back then as opposed to everyone else. Back before there were major sponsors like we see today, many drivers had to provide the money to race for themselves and Petty and his team were one of the first drivers to gain a major sponsor in STP. For drivers like Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley, they didn't have the same opportunities and resources they did at Petty Enterprises so it was hard for those type of drivers to keep up. Overall, if you ask anyone that followed the sport back then I think they would tell you that both Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley were just as talented as Petty but just didn't have the equipment he did.

This is where it differs with Kyle Busch, as most know in today's NASCAR these cars are much more closer than they were back then. At the end of the day while these cars may not be as difficult to drive as they were back in 1967, there is still a massive amount of skill that goes into driving now and when it is all said and done there is just no comparison between what both drivers have accomplished. When it is all said and done as fans we should accept the greatness that both Richard Petty and Kyle Busch have accomplished in their careers.

One of the drivers that you should look out for this week again is Martin Truex Jr. I am staying on this bandwagon like last week because I truly believe that he is due for a victory. Surprisingly, over the course of his 16-year career Truex has yet to win at a short track like Martinsville or Bristol. He has been close so many times like last year in the second race here in October when he was rooted out of the way by Joey Logano on the final lap who went on to win the race. This week, I think that he breaks out and finally gets that elusive grandfather clock and wins it come 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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