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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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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