The Left Turn

NASCAR heads for the Heartland at Kansas Speedway

Alex Bowman/Facebook


This weekend, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Kansas Motor Speedway for the Digital-Ally 400. This track is very similar to many of the tracks we see on the schedule, it is a mile and half oval. The track has plenty of lanes to pass which has allowed for a lot of side by side racing. One of the key factors of the race to look out for is fuel mileage. While it may seem like stage racing has nearly eliminated this style of racing, with the amount of long green flag runs we see here at this track I still think it could play a big part in deciding who wins this weekend, look for this to be a major point of contingency on Saturday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr went on to cruise to his second victory of 2019. When the dust settled, MTJ won by a whopping nine seconds over Alex Bowman. This was quite a feat for both Truex and Bowman after both of their qualifying times were disallowed for failing pre-race inspection. After the race, like many other instances this season a lot of the drivers and owners took issue with NASCAR's new rules package here at dover. Easily the biggest critic this week was 2015 champion Kyle Busch. After being asked by NASCAR Journalist Claire B Lang what he thought, He was quoted as saying "Oh the package sucks. No Question about it's terrible." Many people were dismissive of his comments, after all he does have a long history of calling NASCAR out on things like this when he doesn't win. I understand why fans and media members think this is just another case of Kyle being Kyle but, it's important to note that he wasn't the only person saying this. One of NASCAR's elder statesmen Kevin Harvick also talked about how difficult it was to pass and how much NASCAR drivers and owners have tried to offer solutions just to be ignored. I know that these guys do a job where they are paid well and it's something a lot of us wish we could do but I can definitely understand how frustrating it's got to be to continue to provide stable input on how to make the racing better only to be ignored by NASCAR and dismissed by certain media members.

Going into Kansas, Alex Bowman appears to be on a hot-streak with back to back second place finishes. He is the driver that I have going to victory lane this Saturday. For those that know me well enough, Bowman has always been a driver that I have really campaigned for. Ever since he filled in for Dale Jr back in 2016, he was always competitive and a threat to finish in the top 10 and now he has steadily improved to a driver that can contend for victories. While Kansas hasn't been that great of a track for Bowman results wise, I believe that hendrick motorsports has continued to improve week by week after getting that elusive first win at Talladega with Chase Elliot. I think that Alex has really found a rhythm here and is next in line to claim his first career win, look for the showman to go to victory lane come saturday.

Kyle Larson appears to finally found some good luck after last week's third place finish. He will be another driver who will contend this weekend. Over the course of his ten starts here, the results have not been what Larson and his team would want to hang their hats on, only once has he finished top five here and while the finishes haven't been so great it shouldn't be overshadowed that in those ten starts, larson has lead a considerable amount of laps they have just had bad luck happen that derail their day but this weekend, I think they will change that and get another solid finish at Kansas.


(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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It is the end of an era this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series ends it season here for the final time. It was announced earlier this year in 2020 that NASCAR would conclude its season at Phoenix ending a 17-year tradition. While this track will still have a race here next season, it will be very weird to see champions week in Phoenix as opposed to the sunny beaches of Miami. This track has provided some of the most thrilling finishes in the past including the 2005 Ford 400 when Greg Biffle and Mark Martin finished side by side or of course in 2011 when Tony Stewart came back from multiple laps down to beat Carl Edwards for the championship. While the track will remain on the schedule next year, it simply won't be the same considering the circumstances. Not only is this track a fan favorite but also a favorite among drivers as well. I hope that NASCAR can reconsider to move this race back when they completely overhaul the schedule again in 2021.

Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim 37th career victory after annihilating the competition. With this victory, Hamlin will race for a chance to claim his first championship. This was a relatively calm race where there wasn't a lot going on. Passing was scarce throughout the race as it has been on a lot of these types of race tracks. Overall, the race was a pretty massive disappointment. Many fans were upset that this would be the track that would move to the season finale next season after what we saw on Sunday. While I understand their frustration, once again this goes back to how massive these spoilers are on this car and what a huge amount of drag they provide on smaller tracks like this one, if they can go to a smaller spoiler I think this problem should be eliminated. Let's hope that is the plan going forward next season and NASCAR's higher ups will listen to their drivers for once.

Another major headline this week was the announcement that next season Daniel Suarez will not return to the #41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. As many would expect the driver that moves up to replace him is Cole Custer. This comes as a sort of a surprise considering there was news that the team was working with Suarez and his people on an extension. According to Adam Stern, after Suarez's sponsor Arris modems was purchased by a new company this postponed contract negotiations with the team and they simply ran out of patience. This is extremely unfortunate for Suarez. While many people were critical of him not being able to claim his first win, Suarez was having a pretty solid season. While I am happy to see Custer get his chance, I hope Daniel can find a competitive ride in 2020.

As I wrote earlier, this race will decide the champion. The four drivers that have made it are Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. These four drivers easily have a great case on why they have made it this far. The four have combined for 21 wins so it's safe to say these are the best four drivers in NASCAR right now. Of the four the favorite going into this race is Hamlin. Throughout his career, Hamlin has won everything there is to win but a championship. He has come painfully close so many times, including in 2010 when he spun out early at Homestead or in 2014 when he finished seventh behind Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick. Many believe that this is Denny Hamlin's year and they have great reason for thinking so. He has won here twice back in 2009 and 2013 so he should be a great threat to take victory. One of the unsung heroes when it comes to Hamlin's success has been crew-chief Chris Gabehart. Not only has he has done an excellent job at making this car fast, he has also done a good job at keeping his driver from getting too riled up; at Martinsville he was able to restrain Hamlin from going and knocking Joey Logano's lights out so he has done a great job of that as well. Look for Hamlin to be fast come Sunday.

While he isn't exactly the favorite, Kevin Harvick definitely isn't one to sleep on when it comes to these big races. When this format was first implemented in 2014, Harvick was its first champion. While he hasn't been able to follow up with a championship since, he has still been around the top four as he has made it to the championship race every year but 2016. He has been the definition of consistency and will definitely be up front. Throughout the season, Harvick has been kind of under the radar as he didn't win his first race till New Hampshire in July. He has really come to life since then by winning three races including the one that locked him into Homestead at Texas. Look for the #4 Mustang to be a contender.

It has been quite the season for Kyle Busch. In the regular season, he was able to claim four victories at tracks like Poccono and California. The second half of the season has been a different story. Since then he has yet to find victory lane and has had numerous instances of bad results including blowing an engine at Indy and voluntarily parking his car at the Charlotte Roval after his car was damaged from an earlier accident. Regardless of his troubles, Busch has been able to collect enough stage points over the races preceding the playoffs and find himself right back in the championship race. While any other time I would like his chances, I believe that right now his heart seems to be somewhere else but I could very well be wrong. Regardless Busch will definitely make this race very interesting.

The driver I have winning the title this year is Martin Truex Jr. As we all know, Truex has had to overcome a lot of adversity to get to where he is. Last season, after he finally seemed to find some stability and a championship, the ground seemed to be pulled underneath him as it was announced late last year that Truex's team Furniture Row would cease operations. While most pretty much nkew Truex would move to Joe Gibbs racing, this was just another obstacle for the vetran driver. When moving on to Joe Gibbs, Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn would pick up almost right where they left off and go on to win seven races and breeze a spot in the championship race at Homestead. This week, I think that Truex will cap off an incredible season with another win and a second championship and here is why I think so, of all drivers nobody has finished better than Truex. He currently enters this race with a 1.50 average finish since 2017. The man has been the closest thing to automatic here and this week should be no different. Look for Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and claim his second championship.

(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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