THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for the Daytona Road Course

Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images.

NASCAR makes its inaugural trip to the Daytona Roval for the Go Bowling 235. This will be one of the most anticipated races in recent memory considering that for many years, it was considered that NASCAR would run here in this configuration and now it's finally has come. It will be extremely hard to predict what will go on and to add on there will be no practice and qualifying. This should be one of the most insane races in recent memory and I have no idea who will win this one. This will be a race you don't want to miss

Kevin Harvick dominated the doubleheader last week as he won both races on Saturday and Sunday. He led a combined 182 laps in both races and was easily the best car. The main headline of the race was NASCAR's new choice box rule. This was implemented last week for the first time in a points paying event as NASCAR tried it out in the all-star race at Bristol in June. This rule allows each driver to go to either the outside or the inside of the orange painted box after the start finish line. This allows them to line-up in either lane they chose. It paid dividends for a lot of drivers including Bubba Wallace and Joey Logano as they both picked up a number of spots on Saturday on the final restart. Overall, I really like this new rule but NASCAR once again decides to change everything up in the middle of the season. I echo the sentiments of what Clint Bowyer's spotter Brett Griffin was saying on his door bumper and how NASCAR needs to stop making such massive changes in the middle of the season. Regardless, I look forward to seeing how this works going forward.

As the silly-season continues, one of the big dominoes to fall was Christopher Bell as it was announced (as expected) that he will drive the #20 Toyota next season for Joe Gibbs. This was bound to happen the moment Bell moved up to the Cup Series this year for Leavine family racing. This was very similar to the trajectory of how Erik Jones got his ride back in 2017 when he replaced Matt Kenseth in the same car. While I hate to see Erik out of a ride, I have a feeling he will land on his feet and have a career resurgence wherever he goes. Besides, more than likely he'll be at the top of the list for Rick Hendrick to take over the #48 ride. This silly season continues to twist and turn as there were also rumors that a driver that isn't currently in the sport also was interviewed by Rick Hendrick for the ride. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks.

As we get closer and closer to the playoffs, the battle for the 16th and final spot in the standings is heating up. Currently, 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones both sit 17th and 18th in the standings. This has been a season of such promise for both of these drivers and as everyone knows this is Jimmie's last season. It would be a shame to see both of them miss the playoffs as both have a lot to race for. In the next few weeks, don't be surprised to see these guys get desperate. In fact, Johnson has changed his paint scheme to white as he believes the black and purple look has given him bad luck. Both of these drivers have the speed to get in and it will be crucial for them to pick up as many stage points as possible, something they have struggled with all year. It will be interesting to see who falls over the next few races.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. Like I said earlier, this will be very difficult to predict considering this has never been done before and that there will be no practice. But if there is anyone who can get it done on a Roval, it has to be Ryan Blaney. Back in 2018, he won the first race at the Charlotte Roval and while both are extremely different, it would only make sense to see him win here. This year has been tough on the second generation driver and while he is solidly in the playoffs and has led the points at one point, he still has yet to capture that elusive first win. I expect all that to change come Sunday. Look for Ryan Blaney to take the checkered flag.

Tune in this Sunday, this is definitely going to be one for the books. There will be a lot of beating and banging and a lot of things that we aren't used to seeing. With the chance of rain as well, we could also see history as NASCAR has the rain tires at the ready for this occasion. This will be one you won't want to miss.

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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