THE LEFT TURN

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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Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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