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)

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

Getty Images

Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome