The Left Turn

NASCAR heads for the windy city

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This weekend, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the high banks of Chicago for it's TheHouse.com400. Opened in 2001, Chicagoland is still one of NASCAR's newest tracks on the schedule. With the addition of the new rules package, the racing here at this track could very well be similar to the racing we saw earlier this year at Kansas due to the tracks being so similar.

Last season, this race featured one of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR history after Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson took part in one of the fiercest battles in history and for that reason, this race has been circled on the calendar for many drivers since testing. Darrell Wallace Jr. stated on Twitter that both this track and Kansas should be the ones to watch.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr went on to claim his fourth win of 2019 after thoroughly dominating Sonoma. He has continued to assert himself as the best driver at this racetrack as he has now won here three times. While it may have looked easy, the closing laps were no Sunday drive for the 2017 champion. he had to fend off his main rival and teammate Kyle Busch. When it was all said and done, the race was nothing really to write home about as he was able to drive away from everyone like he has been able to do all season. It will be interesting to see if there is a turnaround in this week's race.

One of the feel good stories of the week was the emergence of Matt DiBenndeto and Leavine Family Racing. He and his crew were able to claim their career best finish in fourth. It was truly a great site to see this team find success on a track as challenging as Sonoma. This finish was no fluke either as Matt ran around the top ten for the better part of the day. This couldn't have come at a better time as there has been many questions about what is next for this fourth year driver. Hopefully this run can be the catalyst for more success for this Texas run team. Owner Bob Leavine and his wife Sharon have been doing an exceptional job at getting this program to where it needs to be not only on the track but off it as well. Of all the other team owners, few have been as cordial and transparent with their fans like they have. It is good to see that this team is making headway.

The driver I have winning this weekend is Kyle Larson. As mentioned earlier, Larson appeared to have victory in his grasp last season until contact sent him into a spin. This is a track that he has done well at. In his four starts here, he has finished outside of the top 10 one time. This season, racing here will be much different. A lot of Kyle's results will be based on where he qualifies. This has been an area that he has excelled. I think with a good qualifying effort, Larson will be hard to beat here. Look for him to claim his first win of 2019.

(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).

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome