THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Hollywood Casino 400 preview

Alex Bowman needs a big effort to advance. Alex Bowman/Facebook

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the heartland in Kansas City, Kansas for the Hollywood Casino 400.

Last week, Stewart-Haas racing teammates Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer found a way to pull away from the pack and get a one-two finish as Almirola went to victory lane for the first time since July of 2014 at Daytona, Bowyer finished second.  This victory is huge for Almirola. Not only does he solidify himself as a championship contender, it is also very special due to all of the adversity he has had to face over the past year. Last year at Kansas Motor Speedway of all places, Almirola suffered a back injury which took him out of commission for a month. It was good to see him get redemption and move on after the hard times.

Entering this race, two drivers have already clinched a spot to the next round. Those drivers are Chase Elliott and  Almirola. While not exactly the drivers the casual fans would expect, both drivers are enjoying their best seasons as Almirola has his most top 10s in a season in his career and Elliott was able to claim his first win in his career this year at Watkins Glen followed by a victory at Dover two weeks ago.

The four drivers that are below the cutoff line are Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman. For the two Penske teammates of Keselowski and Blaney they face the easiest path to unseed Martin Truex and Clint Bowyer. While they enter Kansas 18 points out, if both of these drivers can rack up stage points they very well can find themselves in prime position to get back into the round of eight. The next two drivers are Larson and Bowman. These two are in a must-win situation. Bowman and Larson are facing an insurmountable deficit and the only way to advance is to win Kansas. It should be interesting to watch as these two try and claw their way back into the championship picture.

One of The biggest surprises of this round has been the struggles of Martin Truex Jr. After an abysmal 23rd place finish at Talladega and a mediocre 15th-place finish at Dover, Truex comes into Kansas only eight points above the cutoff. While the situation isn’t exactly dire for the defending champ, he still needs to have at least a top 10 finish to securely solidify his spot in the round of eight. He should be a force to be reckoned with come Sunday.

The driver that I have going to victory lane is Larson. Overall, 2018 has been a huge letdown for this team and while they had chances to win races, it just hasn’t seemed to be in the cards for him but this week, I think they finally break through. I know that I have been saying that for quite some time this season but Kansas Motor Speedway is one of the tracks he has been able to really excel at - he just hasn’t seemed to have the results to back up how great he has run here and tracks like it. Even though his average finish here has not been that great, over the years, he has always been in contention for a win. Like I wrote earlier, Larson’s back is very much against the wall when it comes to making the next round, not only is he facing a 36-point deficit but he also faces a 10 point deduction after using metal tabs for damage repair, which is illegal as you can only use metal fasteners or duct tape to repair damage. While the team is appealing, this does not change the situation for him and I think this week he will defy the odds and clinch a spot in the round of eight and maybe this victory can be the catalyst for Larson to get back into championship contetinton.

This should be a great race come Sunday as most cutoff races in this playoff format have been awesome to watch and this week should be no different. I can’t wait to see who moves on as we get closer and closer to crowning a champion in november.

(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).

 

Courtesy photo

Ever since I was a young man, I have always had a major interest in car racing. I don't know what it was that drew me to the sport but I have always loved it. Back when I was younger, while other kids loved watching cartoons and animaes, I was different. What I watched was a VHS copy of ESPN's CART year in review from 1996. Every day, I sat next to the TV and memorized all of the finishes and the winners of the races. From that point on, I knew I was an Indycar fan for life. While I was watching the greats like Michael Andretti, Jimmy Vasser and Alex Zanardi, I promised myself that I would get to ride in an Indycar and now thanks to the great people at Sportsmap and Giant Noise, on Thursday March 21 I got to fulfill a dream of a lifetime.

For some of the people that don't know me, growing up I had a lot of trouble socially. While I didn't necessarily have a hard time talking to people, keeping them around was a whole different story. I struggled with paying attention to other people when talking to them because I could only think about one thing and usually that was racing,

This was especially difficult in my early years of elementary school. Due to my lack of attention span, my parents (especially my mom) did all they could to try and help me have a better time in school. They took me to psychiatrists and I was placed on multiple medications to no avail. In 2002 I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism. This was very difficult for me because I was treated differently than anyone else by everyone at my schools due to my disorder. I was placed in smaller classes where the work I had to do seemed to be much less than anyone else. I felt horrible and I felt like I wasn't as smart or as normal as anyone else around me.

The one thing that helped me get through it though was my dream to hopefully ride in one of the indycar's that I watched so much of growing up. At a young age, I always told everyone I knew that one day, I was going to ride in a race-car and while there were many drivers that I told people I was going to ride with, one of the many names I mentioned was racing legend Mario Andretti. Flash forward many years later that time came. After getting into one of the fire suits and putting on one of their helmets I was summoned to which car I would ride in and guess who happened to be driving? Mario Andretti! When I strapped into the car while at that moment I couldn't believe that I had made it, I always knew that if I worked hard, met the right people and never gave up I would be able to achieve the dream I had hoped for and overall, riding in the car was one of the most incredible things to ever have happened to me!

As cliche as it sounds, life is a lot like racing in a way. No matter the obstacle, everyone has to keep going towards the checkered flag. Also like in racing It's essential to have a great team around you and I could not be more grateful for the people I met here at SportsMap, ESPN 97.5 and Giant noise. The people who did the most for me though where my mom,dad and my late grandmother. They did everything in their power to get me to where I am at today while they could have easily told me that there were other careers I should go into they always believed that I could cover motorsports. At the end of the day like in racing, there will always be minor setbacks but as long as you believe that you can win, you will find a way. Don't ever give up on the things you want to do.

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