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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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