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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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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