THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads to the Texas Motor Speedway for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Photo via: Wiki Commons.

After much speculation, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Lone Star State for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500. Over the past week there were rumors that NASCAR was going to relocate the race after alleged pressure from the state to cancel. But alas the show goes on and the race will continue. Like the All-Star race, Texas Motor Speedway will also allow fans on the premises as well. This track will more than likely be able to operate at fifty percent capacity so this will likely be the largest crowd since the shutdown. While there is still a lot that is unclear in the world, there will be at least some sense of normalcy come Sunday in the crowd. Hopefully everyone stays safe, wears a mask and follows social distancing guidelines. This could very well be a barometer for future fans in the stands at any point during this season. I hope that all goes well.

Chase Elliott went on to capture his first All-Star race on Wednesday. The race itself was rather lackluster as there wasn't the excitement most fans expected to see. Overall, the reason for this in my opinion was how short the race was, especially the last segment. In the final laps when Kyle Busch was chasing down Elliott, he would get closer and closer but simply didn't have enough laps to run him down and do anything with him. If this race had been fifteen laps longer, there probably would have been a lot more excitement towards the front. In the end, this idea to move the All-Star race to Bristol was well-intentioned but there were a few minor kinks. But overall it was a fairly successful All-Star race.

The one thing I hope they continue to go with in the future is the lights they put underneath the cars, that was incredible. Wouldn't it be awesome to see those at tracks like Daytona? Initially, I was a naysayer when it was announced but after seeing it in action I thought it was awesome! The two things I hope they tweak is that they put the lights on all sides of the cars, and they let the teams dictate what the color is. If they can do that, I think it would be a neat way to promote their sponsors.

As NASCAR tries to navigate its way through this global pandemic, some parts of the schedule still remain unclear as Watkins Glen will cancel their race in August and move the race to the road course at Daytona. This is something that I have been looking forward to seeing for years, and I am glad to see it is finally coming to light. It will be interesting to see how close the cars are when they enter the oval portion of the racetrack and if the leader will be able to pull away unlike what we see at a regular Daytona race. It should be fun to see how this goes. I predict it will be similar to the first race at the oval in Charlotte so you know it will be good. I look forward to seeing the end results come next month and what the future holds for this configuration.

This week, the driver I have winning is Kevin Harvick. As we all know, the 2014 champion has been head and shoulders above everyone this week, and on Sunday we will see much of the same. Since 2017, he's made this track his personal playground. He has three victories in the last six races there and hasn't finished worse than eighth. So to say he has been good there would be an understatement. I look for him to put a beatdown on the field this weekend and capture his fifth victory of the season. Look for Harvick to take his #4 back to victory lane come Sunday.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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