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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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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