THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for Talladega for the 1000blubs.com 500

Talladega. Getty Images.


This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the baddest race track on the planet, Talladega Super-speedway. This is easily the most unpredictable track on the schedule considering how massive this racetrack is. The track is 2.66 miles in length, making it the largest race track on the schedule. This track is known for its three and four wide racing as each car comes equipped with a tapered spacer that restricts speed and bunches everyone up in one big pack. This has been the cause of many massive wrecks that sometimes involve half the field. Back in 2003, one of the largest pileups in history took place here after 27 cars were involved. There truly is danger lurking around every corner at this track and there is no safe space to avoid what they call "the big one." This will be the main point of intrigue come Sunday as each playoff driver looks to survive and keep their playoff hopes alive by staying out of trouble.

Last week at Dover, Kyle Larson went on to claim his first victory in over 75 races. In the final laps, Larson was able to hold off a charge from Martin Truex Jr and cruise to the checkered flag. Because of his win, Larson is now guaranteed a spot in the round of eight and one step closer to getting to race for his first championship. This couldn't have come at a better time considering how much trouble he has had at this track over the years. The last time he raced here, he ended his day on his roof and finished 24th. While a good run would definitely help him, I look for him to stay out of trouble and try to keep his Camaro in one piece.

One of the main headlines of last week's race was the mechanical problems that Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney each faced. Before the race even began, Logano broke an axle that would keep him the garage for 24 laps. Fan favorite Elliott was the next to break as his engine would go belly up after eight laps of racing. While Logano was able to get back out on the track, his teammate Ryan Blaney wasn't so lucky after his suspension quit on him on lap 297 causing him to retire early. So with all of these mechanical issues, many wondered what was the cause of these malfunctions? On this week's edition of Dale Earnhardt Jr's podcast, he and driver Darrell Wallace Jr both believed that the tracks concrete surface was to blame. The track is so rough on each of these cars and the wear and tear causes many mechanical and tire failures. Overall, I think a repave wouldn't be the worst thing considering how hit or miss the racing has been. I know that being one of the few concrete tracks on the schedule is part of their charm but I think it's time for a change.

After months of speculation, NASCAR finally gave the fans a peek at the "next gen" car that will be run in 2021. Ever since NASCAR announced that they would be rolling out a new model, many fans had some interesting ideas on what this new car would look like but when it was announced the car didn't look all that out of the ordinary but there were a few very noticeable differences including the new tires that will be eighteen inches instead of the normal fifteen we see now, the car will also feature a diffuser towards the bottom of the rear of the car like we see on the sports cars in IMSA. This will increase the downforce of a car to help increase drag and ideally keep the cars closer. While this is base design of what the car will look like, it is important to note that this is only a prototype of what we will see in two years as the Manufacturers will be building their own styles in the near future. The sanctioning body called on 2018 Daytona 500 Champion Austin Dillion to test the car at Richmond Raceway and he gave warm reviews to the new race car. He was quoted as saying "was a blast to drive and stops on a dime." This will definitely be interesting to see what is next and if this new car will offer any improvement on the racing we see now.

The driver that I have winning this weekend at Talladega is Alex Bowman. Over the last few weeks, Alex has been in the spotlight and while they may have not been for the best reasons he has really been fast over the last couple of races. Last week, he followed up his controversial second place finish at the roval with a third place at Dover. He has been sneaky fast and currently sits seventh in points. This track is also a place where he has shown speed as well, in the spring race he nearly claimed his first win until a caution came out on the last lap that kept him from getting around his Hendrick racing teammate Elliott. This week, I have a feeling Bowman will come around and continue to build on his momentum and capture his second win of 2019 and move on to the round of eight.

(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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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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