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).

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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