THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: It's a doubleheader weekend at Dover

Chase Elliot
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
NASCAR heads to Delaware for the Dover 400

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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Astros defeat the Orioles, 5-1. Composite Getty Image.

Ronel Blanco pitched seven strong innings and Chas McCormick homered twice to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Yordan Alvarez added a two-run shot to help Houston extend its winning streak to four games.

Blanco (8-2), who threw seven hitless innings in his last start, allowed four hits and a run with three strikeouts for his third straight win.

Alvarez put the Astros on top with his 16th homer, which came off Corbin Burnes (8-3) in the third, and McCormick made it 4-1 in the fifth. McCormick got his fifth career multihomer game when he connected again in the eighth.

Burnes allowed five hits, including a season-high two homers and a season-most four runs in seven innings to snap his career-best streak of 10 consecutive quality starts. He was 5-0 in seven starts since a loss at Washington on May 7.

Jordan Westburg homered in the second for the Orioles, who set a franchise record with 21 straight games with a home run to surpass the 1998 squad's 20-game streak.

Baltimore had troubled stringing hits together Saturday after scoring 28 runs combined in the last two games. The top four batters in their order combined to go 1 for 13 against Blanco and Houston's bullpen.

Ryan Pressly threw a scoreless eighth before Josh Hader struck out two in a perfect ninth to end it.

Westburg connected off Blanco with one out in the second to put the Orioles up 1-0.

Yainer Diaz opened Houston’s second with a triple on a line drive to right field. The Astros tied it when he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubón with one out.

McCormick singled with no outs in the third and the shot to center field by Alvarez came with two outs to put Houston on top 3-1.

McCormick’s home run to the seats in left field extended the lead to 4-1 with one out in the fifth.

Cedric Mullins tripled off the wall in center with one out in the seventh. Colton Cowser hit a sharp line drive, but was robbed of a hit when shortstop Jeremy Peña made a leaping catch for the second out. Blanco then retired Ramón Urías to end the inning and leave Mullins stranded.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Jake Bloss, who made his major league debut Friday night, was placed on the injured list with right shoulder discomfort.

ROSTER MOVES

Astros: RHP Nick Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday night. ... LHP Bryan King was selected to the MLB roster and RHP Luis Contreras was recalled from Sugar Land on Saturday. … RHP Alex Speas was designated for assignment.

UP NEXT

Houston LHP Framber Valdez (5-5, 3.91 ERA) opposes RHP Albert Suárez (3-1, 2.05) in the series finale Sunday.

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