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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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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