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NASCAR: Pocono preview and predictions

NASCAR: Pocono preview and predictions
Photo via: Wiki Commons

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Tricky Triangle this weekend for a doubleheader weekend. This will be a milestone race for NASCAR as for the first time there will be two races on both Saturday and Sunday. The first race on Saturday will be a 130 lap race around the two and a half mile track and the race on Sunday will be a little bit longer as it is a 140 lap race. The field will be set similarly as it has been all season after the shutdown. The top 16 in points will start from a random draw. After the race on Saturday, the field will see an invert like we have seen for the mid-week races only this time the invert will only include the lead lap cars. The one thing about these races is that the drivers will use the same cars for both races should they finish on Saturday. The backup car regulations will remain the same as any other weekend. I personally can't wait to see how this goes.

Last week, Ryan Blaney took home the checkered flag in one of the most sensational finishes in NASCAR History. On the final lap, Blaney edged out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a photo finish as Aric Almirola finished third backwards. The race was unusual for Talladega's standards as the dreaded "big one" didn't happen until the final 300 yards of the race. Coming to the checkered flag, Ryan Blaney threw a block to try to stop Erik Jones from taking the spot. This led to a chain reaction causing Jones and John-Hunter Nemechek to smash into the wall causing a melee at the finish-line. The finish reminded me much of the 2007 Daytona 500 when Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick both finished side-by-side as chaos took place behind him. It was truly a spectacle to behold and it definitely made up for the rain-delay that pushed the race back to Sunday.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about what happened with Darrell Wallace Jr. Overall, the sport was in the headlines once again after it appeared a noose was found in Wallace's garage stall. This sparked outrage not only on the track but off it as well as major news outlets picked up this story. Before the race started, the sport rallied behind Wallace and walked with him and his car to the front of the grid and stood with him at the front of the grid. Even car owner and legendary driver, Richard Petty, made the trip to be with his driver. After a fourteenth place finish for Bubba, the FBI concluded that the rope was indeed fashioned like a noose but Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime. It was discovered that the noose on the rope pull was there since October 2019. How or why it got there is beyond anyone's knowledge. Was it maliciously placed there, absolutely not, but was it the right move for NASCAR to look into it? Yes.

In these times of racial tension in America and with everything that has gone on with the Confederate flag, NASCAR took every precaution to make sure their driver wasn't a victim of a hate crime. And I commend them for that. Was the statement that was put out by Steve Phelps worded the best? No, but you have to realize what the man was dealing with over the past couple of weeks and why he felt so strongly about what was going on. And for everyone who says this was a hoax or wants to compare it to Jussie Smollett, they obviously didn't look at the rope and see how strongly it resembles a noose. These people claim that they see knots like this at tracks all the time which is ridiculous considering NASCAR looked over all 1,684 garage stalls and came to the conclusion that only one was tied like that. Any person that sees all that evidence and is still convinced it's a conspiracy is lying to themselves and should never be taken seriously when it comes to anything.

Okay so on a much lighter note, the driver that I have winning Saturday is Kevin Harvick. Over the course of his illustrious career, Harvick has come extremely close to victory here but somehow has yet to win. Back in July 2017, he seemed to have the race in hand until Kyle Busch moved him out of the way. In 2018, he led with 89 laps only to fall to fourth as Martin Truex Jr. went on to win. On Saturday, I can see him finally breaking the streak and getting his third win of the season. He has been too strong here to be winless, and this weekend I think there is a very good chance he at least gets a victory in one of the races. Look for Harvick in the #4 Mustang to take the checkered flag.

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The Texans are back in action! Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans are back on the field for voluntary OTAs, and it sure is nice to see one face in particular. Tank Dell is already participating in on-field drills after suffering a gunshot wound to the leg just a few weeks ago.

After the incident, Texans CEO Cal McNair said Dell would take a while to get back to where he was in his broken fibula rehab before suffering the gunshot wound. Clearly, Dell is ahead of schedule, and that's a great thing for QB CJ Stroud and the rest of the offense.

Head coach DeMeco Ryans spoke about Tank Dell's return.

Notable absences

The biggest addition of the offseason, Stefon Diggs, is not present at OTAs. Tytus Howard, Laremy Tunsil, and Shaq Mason are not in attendance either. Let's keep in mind, these workouts are voluntary, but it would have been great to see Diggs show up to build chemistry with Stroud.

Speaking of building chemistry with Stroud. The Texans' most productive receiver last season, Nico Collins, is on the field preparing for a huge contract year.

All Collins really has to prove this year is that he can stay healthy. He recorded 1,297 receiving yards and 8 TDs over 15 games in 2023.

He hasn't made it through a season healthy over his three-year career. Hopefully he bucks the trend in 2024. If he does, he likely will receive a contract extension similar to Colts receiver Michael Pittman. A three-year, $70 million deal with $46 million in guarantees. If he remains healthy, he'll get that money from someone, whether it's the Texans or another team.

Especially if Diggs leaves after the season when his contract expires.

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