NASCAR REPORT

NASCAR heads to Texas for the AAA Texas 500

Photo by Getty Images

This week the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the Lone-Star State for the AAA Texas 500. This is NASCAR's second trip to the 1.5 mile oval this year. The last time they were here, Denny Hamlin went on to claim his third win of the season after passing Austin Dillon in the later stages of the race. Overall, the racing that we saw there seemed to be closer but it still turned out to be a dominating performance from Joe Gibbs Racing. This time around, the circumstances are much different considering what is at stake as each driver in the round of eight will look for a chance to punch their ticket to the championship race in Homestead-Miami.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. went on to win his season-high seventh win of the season and will now get to race for a championship for the third consecutive year. As I stated in the Martinsville preview, I predicted that Martin Truex Jr would have no issue getting to victory lane and he went out there and made me look like a genius (which is hard to do). When the dust settled, he led a career-high 464 laps and was never really challenged for most of the day. The closest anyone could ever get to him was William Byron and he couldn't even get to the back bumper of Truex. While we saw the same amount of beating and banging that we have always seen, like the last time they were here at Martinsville, no one could seem to pass the leader.

While many people would say, "Isn't the leader supposed to be hard to pass?" it shouldn't be next to impossible like what we saw last Sunday. What it all boiled down to was the size of the spoiler on the back of the car. With this new rules package, the rear spoiler is nine inches tall and 61 inches around. This was implemented to add more drag and resistance to keep the cars closer together and while for the most part it worked for the rest of the field, Truex was able to get into clean air and just take off. After the race, Brad Keselowski said "when you get behind someone and you are way faster, this big spoiler would just kill you." Many fans agreed with him and suggested a much smaller spoiler for these 750 horsepower races. I think this could be the best idea to help improve races here. With the cost being minimal, I would not be surprised if this is the direction that NASCAR goes in the future.

The big headline after the race was the altercation between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano during post-race. On the track, Denny Hamlin squeezed Joey Logano into the wall down the backstretch flat spotting Logano's tire. Logano confronted Hamlin on pit-road by shoving him and then walking away. This led to Hamlin and his team attacking Joey but the fight was quickly broken up after Denny Hamlin was thrown to the ground by a crew-member. This was fairly routine for Martinsville. The last three consecutive years there has been a conflict at the end of the race and Hamlin has been involved in two of them. It will be interesting to see if Logano returns the favor going forward into this round.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Larson. While he may not be the favorite for a lot of people and the results haven't quite been what this Chip Ganassi Racing team would have liked, Larson has proved that he can run up front here. Ever since the track has been reconfigured, it has seemed to fit Larson's driving style fairly well and they just haven't had the luck to go along with their efforts. Every time he seems to get going, there has always been an obstacle in his way. The last time he came there in March, he was charging through the field and looked to be in a position to contend until an accident took him out of contention on lap 147.

This time around, I believe that Larson will be able to run a complete race with no issues and take the win and finally lock himself into the championship race at Homestead. This could very well be a race to remember for the fifth year driver and if he is able to move on to the championship round, he will be a serious threat for the championship. Another side-note, if Larson is able to win, he will break a twenty-five year win-less streak for a McDonald's sponsored car as the last driver to win for the iconic restaurant was Jimmy Spencer all the way back in 1994. Look for Larson and the Golden Arches to go to victory lane at Texas.

(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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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