THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Overton’s 400 preview

Martin Truex Jr. is going for two in a row. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

We head for the Windy City this weekend for the overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Motor Speedway.

This track is -- you guessed it -- another mile and a half oval. While this track has practically the same layout as all of its predecessors such as Kansas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas, let it be known that it has provided some good finishes over the course of its 17-year tenure in NASCAR, Like when Brad Keselowski made a three wide pass on Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick in 2014 or when Jeff Gordon wrecked Matt Kenseth for the win in 2006.

Last week at Sonoma, Martin Truex, Jr. cruised to his third win of 2018. Truex thoroughly dominated yet again, he led a race high 62 laps. Earlier in a green flag run, Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn made the decision to tell his driver not to pit, which was code to do the opposite.

This allowed Truex to have much fresher tires and he was able to fly around Kevin Harvick in the closing 20 laps and drive to victory lane. One of the biggest surprises of the race was Alex Bowman’s ninth place finish. Going into the weekend, Bowman was not one of the drivers that many people thought could run in the top 10 due to his road course inexperience, but he went out and had an extremely solid race.

Earlier in the weekend he along with five other drivers -- including his teammate William Byron, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Aric Almirola -- all participated in the K&N Late model series. Normally, I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Cup drivers racing in a lower division but Sonoma is one of the toughest tracks if not the toughest track in NASCAR so any experience that these younger drivers such as Bowman can gain by running in a lower division can really pay dividends and it did for Bowman.

Look for Bowman to be around the top 10 this week at Chicagoland. The biggest letdown of last week was AJ Allmendinger. Everything appeared to be going all right for Allmendinger as he went on to win the first stage of the race and collect 10 points to go towards the playoffs but after the race resumed, he missed a shift which caused him to blow his engine and finish last. While Sonoma was a track that he has ran well at and certainly this is a disappointing outcome for him, don’t count out Allmendinger to win a race before the year is out, there are still at least two tracks in Daytona and Watkins Glen that he can win at.

Another driver who had a great run this week and deserves a shout out is Matt DiBenedetto. Last week, he was able to wheel his Ford Fusion to a seventeenth place effort. While on the surface, finishing 17th doesn’t appear to be all that great, he and his team Go Fas Racing don’t have half the budget that a Rick Hendrick or a Joe Gibbs would have and to finish in the top 20 is a big win for a smaller team like the one he races for and they deserve it.  They go out and run all the laps and are able to finish races with their equipment in one piece. It’s great to see a team like this continue to grow each year, owners Joe Faulk and Archie St. Hillare have done an awesome job at managing and who knows? Maybe this team can win races and then turn into a championship contending organization some day.

The favorite going into this weekend’s race is once again Martin Truex Jr. In the last two times that the cup series has came here, Martin has won here, not to mention it is a mile in a half track and those are the type of tracks that he thrives on. In his 149 starts on these types of tracks he has 10 victories. He has proven to be the master of the mile and a half. Look for MTJ to be a serious contender to claim his second consecutive victory and his fourth of the season on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Joey Logano. The tenth year driver has come a long way from his days at Joe Gibbs Racing and ever since he joined Penske racing in 2013, Logano has evolved into a championship contender, 2018 has been no different. While they have only earned one victory this season at Talladega, Logano and his team have been the model of consistency all season. He has the second highest finishing average of anyone at 8.8 now he goes to a track where he has excelled at over the last two seasons. While he has yet to win here in his career, I see him changing that on sunday. Look for the Shell Pennzoil Ford to go to victory lane this weekend.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats)

 

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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