The Left Turn

NASCAR heads for the windy city

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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).

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This week, NASCAR heads for Sin City in Las Vegas for the South Point 400. This is the opening round of NASCAR's version of the playoffs. Sixteen drivers will come to Vegas with a chance to move on and continue their path to a championship. Located just outside Downtown, This track is a mile and a half oval that includes twenty degrees in banking, usually with the Las Vegas heat, the track's surface becomes much more slick. This caused many tire issues last season that took out many contenders including Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott. With temps as high as 100 degrees on Sunday, this should be a factor to watch for.

Last week, Kevin Harvick put a beat-down on the field to go on and win his second Brickyard 400 and his third win of the season. Harvick led a race high 118 laps and was never really challenged until the closing stages after a battle with Joey Logano on a restart in the final few laps. The race was marred by many spectacular crashes including Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones as Brad hit a tire barrier at over 170 miles per hour causing the car to come to a dead-stop instantly. Luckily, no one involved was injured. Overall, many of the contenders were caught up in accidents including teammates Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch. When the smoke cleared, there were also some drivers who had great results including Darrell Wallace Jr who came home third. This was Bubba's best finish since last year's Daytona 500. While many will attribute attrition to why he ran so well it is important to note that he ran around the top 10 for much of the race.

For much of the season, NASCAR's greatest driver Jimmie Johnson has been in the spotlight but for all the wrong reasons and unfortunately this continued at Indy after he was eliminated from playoff contention when he was swept up in a multi car wreck on lap 108. This ends a 14 year streak of Johnson making NASCAR's postseason. While 2019 has been a dreadful year for him, Johnson has been adamant that he crew-chief Cliff Daniels are not done and will be much better come next season. If I could compare this to any other major sport, I would say it is close to what happened with LeBron James missing the playoffs this season with the Lakers. For both athletes, while things may be hard now I think they will be better next season as they both make moves to improve their teams. It will be interesting to watch seven time champion try and play spoiler to help his teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron compete for a championship.

The NASCAR world was met with some good news this week as well as it was announced that fan favorite Matt DiBenedetto will drive for the Wood Brothers in 2020 in the #21 Menards Ford Mustang, the ride will include resources from Penske racing. The move was met with much surprise as it was announced Tuesday on the Wood Brothers Twitter page. The team's current driver, Paul Menard announced his retirement at the end of the 2019 season. While he won't be racing, Menard and his sponsor of the same name will remain with the team as Paul was gracious enough to suggest they hire DiBenedetto after he had many great results this season driving for Bob Leavine. Even though he will not return to full-time racing in NASCAR, he will continue to race on a part time basis more than likely for Penske racing's Xfinity team. In the grand scheme of things, many people have criticized Paul for his avenue into the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, the one thing people can't say is he and his family haven't done a lot for the sport. While many sponsors have left, Menard and his bright yellow paint scheme have always been around to keep a lot of these competitive teams going, I have to thank Paul for everything he has done for this sport and while his career wasn't perfect he wasn't such a bad race car driver either, he will always be remembered for his victory in the 2011 Brickyard 400 (ironically enough) and qualifying for the chase back in 2014. He will be missed come Sundays on the track

The driver that I have winning this week is Martin Truex Jr. This season, Truex has been fast at times but surprisingly he has kind of flown under the radar when compared to his teammates. While he still has four wins, he's been in a bit of a slump over the past two weeks. At both Indy and Bristol, he has finished 15th and 27th. The results have kind of taken the radar off the 2017 champion but I think this race is where he gets back into the swing of things. Over the last couple races here, Truex has the second highest average finish has led 23 percent of the laps completed. Come Sunday when the green flag drops, Truex and his Camry should be hard to beat.

(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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