THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR heads to the Lone Star State for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the Lone Star State this weekend for the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500. This is the second race of the Round of 8 as the remaining members of the playoffs look to lock up their spot in the championship race in Phoenix in two weeks. This track has undergone many changes over the last few years as it was repaved back in 2017. The first two corners are much wider than corners three and four thus giving the drivers more places to go to make a pass. We will also see a lot of strategy come into play here as well. The last time they were here, Austin Dillon was able to use a two tire pit strategy to pull off the upset victory. It will be interesting to see if a driver who is further down in the standings like Kurt Busch or Alex Bowman will try to use this strategy to sneak their way into the championship race.
Joey Logano punched his ticket last week at Kansas as he was able to fend off Kevin Harvick for the win. This will be the fourth time Logano has made it to the championship round ever since they began this format back in 2014. In the closing laps, both Joey and Kevin Harvick had an intense battle for the win as Harvick would close in, but he just didn't seem to have enough clean air to get around the 2018 champion. Many fans were pleased with the finish but took issue with how difficult it was to pass. It seemed like when the leader was in clean air he could drive away from second place. Most of this is due in part to how big the spoilers are on the back of the cars. Lucky for a lot of fans, next season the spoilers will be much smaller and hopefully this will fix a lot of those issues with passing.
The Silly Season is winding down as most drivers are now finalizing their plans for next season, nonetheless there were plenty of big announcements this week as drivers revealed where they will be running next year. To start off the week, it was announced that former Joe Gibbs driver Erik Jones is signing a multi-year deal to drive the #43 Camaro for Richard Petty Motorsports. This comes as a bit of a surprise seeing how Jones is going to a team that has struggled over the past few years, but he will be coming into a situation where their cars are a bit more competitive especially after this year with Bubba Wallace. The other big headline this week was the promotion of Chase Briscoe from Xfinity Series to the cup as he will take the #14 Ford Mustang replacing the retiring Clint Bowyer. This wasn't really a surprise as it seemed the writing had been on the wall for quite a while. I think Briscoe will be a star for this team as he has really gone on a tear in the Xfinity Series. Look for Briscoe to be the rookie of the year in 2021.
The newest Michael Jordan/Denny Hamlin team now has a new name and logo. It was announced on Friday that the team will be called 23XI or Twenty-Three-Eleven Motorsports. As we all know this is both the numbers of Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. I look forward to seeing what Denny and the team comes up with in the future and how the car will look as well. One thing that will be interesting to see is how this team will fare considering their technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. Regardless, this is a winning combination for both NASCAR and Michael Jordan.
The driver I have winning this weekend is Kevin Harvick. As most fans know this season has been his most successful yet, he has won nine races, has twenty top five finishes and has led over 1,000 laps. Many would say he is having a much better statistical season than he was when he won the title back in 2014. This will continue on this weekend as he goes to a track where he has a 3.50 average finish, the highest of any driver. Not to mention he has won here twice since 2017. I look for him to get his tenth victory of the season this week and clinch his spot at Phoenix.