THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: It's a doubleheader weekend at Dover

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for the Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader. This is the third and final doubleheader of 2020 as we saw the other two were run at Pocono and Michigan. This Dover track is called the Monster Mile because of its rough and abrasive concrete surface. There have been some massive wrecks here so it is never out of the question to see a pile-up that can take out multiple cars. It will be fun to see what lies ahead for this weekend's doubleheader.

Last week, Chase Elliott went on to capture his eighth career victory in the first ever running of the Daytona Roval and while the race definitely had its moments, it was much more tame than expected. It seemed like there weren't very many places where anyone could pass especially in the chicane in the turns three and four. I have to applaud these drivers though, with this being a brand-new track layout, all of these drivers did an excellent job at handling this track. We could have very well seen the field go into turn one and forget they are on a road-course and miss the turn completely, but they all kept it straight and there were hardly any big accidents. There were also some pleasant surprises in this race as well including a fifth place finish by Chris Buescher and a tenth place finish by Michael McDowell.

Like everywhere else in the world, the Ccoronavirus has taken the NASCAR world by storm as Austin Dillion announced that he had tested positive the morning of the race. This came as a shock to everyone around the NASCAR world especially considering the timing of his diagnosis. Thankfully, Dillion appears to have recovered and will be racing this weekend at Dover. This proves that even though the sport has been doing really well, they are not invincible to this virus. I have to say though, considering what we have seen in other sports such as baseball, I will say that NASCAR has done exceptionally well at not having an outbreak. Needless to say, this will be another wake-up call for the sport especially as it draws ever closer to the playoffs.

While Dillon was at home recovering, it was announced that RCR Xfinity driver Kaz Grala would be tapped to fill in, and he went out and absolutely crushed it! This young man got into a race car that he had never seen, hadn't run a single lap of practice in and went out there and led a few laps and finished in seventh! I am so impressed with how well he did this weekend. This isn't the first time the Massachusetts driver has exceeded expectations. Back in 2018 at an Xfinity race in Daytona, Grala took a car with a ten-year-old chassis and nearly won. If Kaz is given a chance in a good ride, it may take some time for him to grow but given the opportunity, I really believe he can make some noise. Be on the lookout for Kaz in the future.

One driver who experienced the exact opposite of the spectrum was Kyle Busch. As we all know this has been the season from hell for the defending champion. He has yet to win this year, something that has never happened in his whole career as he has won at least one race since his rookie year back in 2005. The Daytona Road course only put salt on the wounds as he was involved in multiple accidents including the final caution that took him out of the race. Because he has accumulated a bunch of stage points, he is solidly in the playoffs but this is nowhere near the position he wants to be in. I wouldn't fade him though going forward considering how talented he is.

Speaking of the playoffs, the battle for the 16th and final spot in the chase is becoming less and less of a battle as Jimmie Johnson sits twenty-five points behind his Hendrick racing teammate William Byron. It would almost seem as if Jimmie needs to win one of these next two races to get in. Recently, Johnson changed up his paint scheme from black and purple to white and purple. He called it his "RAlly" scheme considering Ally Bank is his sponsor. It seems as if that he has found a little bit of luck considering he finished fourth last week at Daytona and is moving on the right track coming into Dover. I look for him to be upfront this weekend.

The drivers that I have winning this weekend are Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott. To start, this has been a track that Martin Truex has pretty much owned ever since he began his career here. In four of the last five races he has finished in the top five and 300 laps in total. I look for him to take one of the two races. The other driver that I think will win is Chase Elliott. This has also been a track he has run exceptionally well at. He has led 294 laps and despite mechanical issues at the last race here, he has been extremely fast including when he won the fall race back in 2018. I look for those two to go to victory lane during this doubleheader weekend.

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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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