THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR visits Pocono Raceway for a doubleheader this weekend

Double the fun this weekend! Photo via Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Tricky Triangle this week for a doubleheader. The rules of last season will apply to this season as well as there will be two races, one on Saturday afternoon and one on Sunday afternoon. Also the inversion rule will apply as well as the first place car on Saturday will swap places with the twentieth place car starting on the pole for Sunday's race. This will be the first time that Pocono has hosted fans since 2019, so it will certainly be a delight to have a full house back at the races.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning his third race in a row at Nashville. It seems like there is no one that can stop him as he has not only won but led the most laps in all three of his wins. He continues to send a message that he is the class of the field.

While Larson was in his own zip code, there were a few drivers that were not so lucky, some of those drivers being the Penske teammates of Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney. Overall while Blaney showed speed early, a brake issue put him in the wall ending his day. Keselowski on the other hand was just slow all throughout the day. While Joey Logano was able to salvage a decent tenth place finish, it was a forgettable day for the Penske Fords. It seems like they have been off the pace lately, while yes no one has had anything for Larson and the Hendrick cars, it seems like they are a step behind. While all three are locked into the playoffs, they will definitely need to pick up the pace.

The big headline this week was the addition of Kaulig Racing for 2022. Their current Xfinity drivers, Justin Haley and AJ Allmendinger will be promoted with Haley running full-time and Allmendinger running select races. This is certainly another great sign for the sport as it continues to grow. The team will purchase both their charters from Spire Motorsports. With this acquisition, newly formed Trackhouse racing will lose their charter and become an open team. Even though not much will change on the surface for this team, there will be a big discrepancy in revenue. Team owner Justin Marks stated that nothing will change next season and they will continue to run full time. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the course of the next few weeks.

As I mentioned earlier, Kyle Larson is in the midst of one of the most dominant stretches that we have seen in quite some time. He will be heavily favored this week, but he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to win four in a row as this track has been one where he hasn't had the best results. In his past three races here, he has finished outside of the top twenty twice. There is a silver lining though, in his last start here two seasons ago he was able to score a solid fifth place finish, and a runner-up finish one year earlier. Look for him to be in contention to win one if not both races this weekend.

The drivers that I have winning this weekend are Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Both of these drivers have a winning pedigree here, as they both have a combined four victories. They also have the advantage of a good track position on Saturday, as they both start third and fifth. Both drivers have a lot of good momentum going into this week. Busch has been the only guy who can keep with Larson, and Harvick is coming off a top five last week. Look for both drivers to be fast this weekend.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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