THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR hits the road at Watkins Glen

Joey Logano. Getty Images.

This week, The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the finger lakes in Watkins Glen New York. This track is one of the three road courses on the schedule and if you ask me, easily the most exciting. Ever since the dramatic last lap duel between Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski in both 2011 and 2012, this track has not had one bad finish. Besides the obvious Daytona or Talladega, this track poses the biggest chance for a first-time winner. Since 2010, there have been three first time winners including last season when Chase Elliott claimed his first win. This should be a can't miss race for any hardcore race fan.

Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim his third victory of 2019 after he was able to save enough fuel to hold off his teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. This was Joe Gibbs racing's second 1-2-3 finish of 2019. This was another one of the many races that really ramped up in the final laps. While it appeared as if it was going to come down Hamlin, Jones and Harvick a caution came out after Josh Bilicki broke a driveshaft and stalled. This type of outcome seems to be a trend as it has happened so many times in the past few weeks and it isn't the worst thing for NASCAR right now. While watching the first two stages of the race is essential, everyone comes to see the closing stages of a race when the intensity heats up and lately even if it was unintentional these finishes have been incredible. It should be fun to watch during the remainder of the season.

The Jimmie Johnson saga continues as this week it was announced that he would hire a new crew-chief in Clif Daniels. This doesn't necessarily come as a surprise as Johnson has continued to struggle performance wise with his former Crew-Chief Kevin Meendering. Overall, I think that Kevin could be a good crew chief but the pressure might have been too much for him. Coming into 2019, Meendering was making his debut at crew-chief in the cup series as he worked for JR Motorsports with Elliott Sadler from 2016 to 2019 when he relieved Chad Kanaus. He was fairly successful in his efforts after he was able to guide Sadler to two championship races at Homestead in 2016 and 2017. In time, I think he will find his way back onto a pit-box in the Cup series, maybe some more time as an engineer or possibly crew-chiefing back in the Xfinity series will help him when he gets back whenever that may be. As for the guy they tapped to replace him, I think Daniels can definitely come in and help fix things from a technical standpoint as he has been an engineer at Hendrick since 2015, it should be interesting to see how this team progresses.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Joey Logano. While it has been a struggle for him here in the past few years, this Sunday should be different; besides what a lot of people forget is that last season, Logano could have been a major contender if he wasn't involved in a first lap crash as he started the race in sixth. This is a track that Joey knows how to get around considering he won here back in 2015. This race also plays into pit strategy as well and for my money, crew-chief Todd Gordon is one of the best race strategists in NASCAR. I look for him to claim his third 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).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets 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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