THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400 preview and predictions

Look for Denny Hamlin to win this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Kansas Speedway this week for the Hollywood Casino 400. This is the first race of the Round of 8 as the season gets one step closer to crowning a champion as there are four more races left in this crazy 2020 season. This track is a one and a half mile oval and it fits this package almost perfectly as there has been much closer racing since NASCAR started running it back in 2018. I look forward to seeing how this race plays out as strategy could very well play a part as it usually does here. The last time the Cup Series was here there were a lot of wrecks so that could be something to look out for as well.

Last week, Chase Elliott went on to capture his fourth consecutive road course win. The race was highlighted by the on and off rain that would soak the track and make finding grip next to impossible. We saw lots of cars spinning into the grass including Ryan Blaney who was leading at the time he spun. As crazy as the racing was we saw some surprises up near the front as Ty Dillon went on to win stage one of the race. Many people didn't care for what we saw as there were a multitude of fans on Twitter proclaiming that what they saw "was not racing." While yes, it was crazy, I think this was awesome to watch. I hope if there is ever more rain on road courses we can see more of this in the future.

The big surprise of the weekend was Kyle Busch. As we all know this has been the worst year of his racing career, he has yet to win a race this year and was eliminated from championship contention. The day started off pretty bad for him after getting a flat tire but as he always does, the defending champion went on a tear driving all the way back to the lead. It looked like the stars were going to align for him but a late race caution and the decision to stay out on cold tires cost him as his M&M's Camry gave up the ghost. While this season hasn't been the best, I would expect him to still be a major contender in the coming weeks for a victory.

The silly season continues this week as the rumors continue to swirl around who will go where next season. There are reports that next season Hendrick Motorsports will be renumbering the #88 back to the legendary #5. While the driver remains unknown, this is a big deal for Hendrick Racing as many people had been speculating that this would happen and now it seems as if it's coming to fruition. This was brought up by Dale Earnhardt Jr on his podcast. The other big story is the possibility that Erik Jones will be driving for Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering the struggles that this team has endured but overall maybe there are improvements being made over there that we don't know about. If I personally was Rick Hendrick, I would hire Erik Jones to drive the #5 car next year but it is becoming more and more clear who he is going to go with next season and that doesn't appear to be an option. If Jones can come in and run well in the #43 car next season, I would think his stock will go up for 2022.

The driver that I have winning this week is Denny Hamlin. This 2020 season has been a career year for Hamlin as he has won seven races and has scored almost more points than anyone. Now he heads for a track that he has made his own where he won back in July. He has been phenomenal on these types of racetracks and this weekend should be no different. Look for Denny Hamlin to take the #11 FedEx Toyota to victory lane and lock himself into the championship race at Phoenix.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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