THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Cup Series at Indy: Verizon 200 picks, preview

NASCAR Cup Series at Indy: Verizon 200 picks, preview
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch failed post-race inspection last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

This week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads for the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon 200. This is the second time they will be racing on the road course configuration, and this time the track will be much improved from last year. When we last saw them race here, it was a complete disaster. Entering turns four and five, there were a set of curbs that would launch the cars into the air. This took out several of the contenders such as Kyle Busch, William Byron and Joey Logano. Thankfully, track officials caught wind of this and took out the curbing that caused all these issues. We should see a much cleaner race than we did last season.

Last week, it appeared that Denny Hamlin went on to score his third victory of 2022 and his seventh career victory at Pocono. While it started off rocky after he spun early in the race, everything came up aces for him. They had great pit-stops, a race winning strategy, and Hamlin even got his revenge on his rival Ross Chastain. It was the perfect day for the #11 team as he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch took the checkered flag in first and second. When the race was over and all the celebrations were done, both Busch and Hamlin's cars failed post-race inspection and their win was vacated. This was the first time since 1960 that a winner was disqualified in the Cup Series. The culprit? A piece of clear tape over the right-front fascia. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, this can drastically change the aerodynamics of the car. NASCAR has been explicitly clear that they will not tolerate any teams modifying the bodies of these race cars, and Joe Gibbs Racing learned the hard way.

Michael McDowell would also receive a massive penalty for a similar infraction, he would be assessed a 100 point penalty and would also lose his stage and playoff points as well. He would fall from 20th to 26th place in the standings. He will have to win if he wants to make the playoffs.

Kurt Busch will miss this weekend's race at Indy after suffering a concussion in practice last week. This has been one of the most difficult news items to process. He has had such a huge impact on this sport and has been a massive part of 23XII’s success. Let's hope he is back in the car here soon.

The driver I have winning this week is a bit of a wildcard, but I am taking Austin Cindric. While it seems like a bit of a surprise, Cindric has a lot of track time here at this racetrack and on road courses in general. It has been an up and down last four races for the young rookie, but he’s scored two top ten finishes at Road America and at Nashville. He’s also been extremely fast on road courses, as he’s finished at least in the top ten on each of the road courses they have run this year. He will need a bounce back win just in case there are more than sixteen winners and his Daytona 500 victory won’t suffice. I look for him to bring the #2 Ford Mustang back to victory lane come Sunday.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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