THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR preview: KC Masterpiece 400

Kevin Harvick is spending a lot of time in the winner's circle. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the Heartland for the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Motor Speedway. Last week, Kevin Harvick went on to his fourth win of the season. It was another dominating performance for the 2014 Champion as he went on to lead a race high 201 laps and was able to easily win the first two stages of the race. It was not only another signature performance by Harvick but also by his teammates as well. Both Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch both finished second and sixth also Aric Almirola continued his string of good runs as he finished 11th.

While Bowyer and his team can hold their head up high after a runner-up finish, it was announced on Wednesday that they would be docked 20 driver and owner points for rear-window violations, they will also be fined $50,000 and lose their car-chief Jerry Cook  for two weeks as well.

The biggest surprise of sorts to come out of last weekend was Daniel Suarez. In my last article previewing this race, I stated that Daniel Suarez and his team would be a top 10 or maybe even a top five contender and the Sophomore driver exceeded expectations by finishing third. Suarez was the model of consistency for the most part of the day. He began his weekend with an impressive seventh place qualifying effort and stayed around the top 10 all day. Look for Suarez to continue to ride this new wave of success into Kansas this week as he continues to chip away at his first career win.

Although it was a great day for him and his team, Suarez was also penalized. He too had a rear window violation. Like Bowyer, he will lose 20 driver and owner points, $50,000 and his car chief Todd Brewer will also be suspended as well.

This weekend, we head for Kansas Motor Speedway. This track is another one of NASCAR’s MANY mile and a half intermediate tracks. It was recently just re-configured in 2011, as they repaved the surface and added five more degrees of banking. Like most of its mile and a half predecessors, Kansas is known for long green flag runs and a big emphasis on  pit strategy.

The biggest story of this week is the return of 2003 NASCAR Champion, Matt Kenseth. As most fans know, last year Kenseth was released from Joe Gibbs Racing as they were not able to find enough sponsorship to keep him around. For the beginning of 2018, Kenseth was without a ride until his former boss Jack Roush made the decision to bring him on and replace Trevor Bayne in the number six Advocare/Wyndham Hotels Ford. The 18-year stock car veteran heads to a track where he has had a great deal of success driving for both Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs. He has two victories, seven top fives and 13 top 10s at Kansas. Even though he has a stacked resume here, the situation he is getting into will not be easy. Kenseth will be stepping into a car that is currently 24th in points but Kenseth is one of the best drivers of his time and should have no problem adjusting. Look For Kenseth to be a factor on Saturday.

The favorite this weekend is easily Harvick. This has been probably the best start of his illustrious 17-year career. Not only does he lead the series in race wins but he also has more stage wins than anyone as well. It just seems that Harvick and his team are one step ahead of everyone and now to top it all off they go to another track where they have run well at. Of all drivers, only Jimmie Johnson has a better average finish than him. He has won at this track twice in 2013 and 2016 so he definitely has a knack for this place. Look for him to continue his success this weekend.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Bowyer. This is a race track that is very special to Bowyer seeing how it is his home track and while he has never won here his results here have been pretty solid. Over his 19 starts here Bowyer has six top 10s and two top fives. While he hasn’t been the best driver here in the past, I think that this year is different. After finally ending that 190 race winless streak, Bowyer now has a newfound confidence in his team and his Crew Chief Mike Bugarewicz. Look for the Number 14 Haas-Automations Ford to head for victory lane.

(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).

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome