NASCAR heads to the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend

Keep an eye on Denny Hamlin this Sunday. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Atlanta Motor Speedway this week for the Quaker State 400. This will be the final race that NASCAR will run on this configuration before a massive repave and reconfiguration takes place after the race. This race will feature four-hundred miles of slipping and sliding and tire management. The surface for this racetrack is one of the roughest on the schedule, as it hasn't been repaved since 1997. More than likely, the driver who does the best at saving his tires will win the race. Much like we saw earlier here in the season, Lap traffic will also come into play as well. When Kyle Larson had a massive lead on Ryan Blaney, he approached the lapped car of Joey Logano who promptly held him up, allowing his teammate of Blaney to catch up and take the win. Look for that to be a point of contingency come Sunday.

Last week at Road America, Chase Elliott did what he does best and took his seventh career victory on a road course. This is his second victory of 2021. This was another excellent run as he continues to put down solid runs as we get closer to the playoffs. He will be one to watch to tack on more wins as there are four more road courses left this season.

The big story off the track this week have been the rumors about next year's new car and its safety record. The reaction to the crash testing has been mixed, as there have been some reports that the crash test dummies used in the simulations were fatally impacted. This is a very troubling sign for the sport as safety has been NASCAR's strongest attribute since 2001 when Dale Earnhardt was killed. It is important to note that these are rumors and have not been confirmed, but there has been a lot of smoke around these claims. Former Crew-Chief Steve Hmeil claimed on Twitter that the car was "too stiff" and there weren't enough crush zones around the car. And even though he hasn't been in the sport for a while he is certainly a reputable source. I have talked to a few people around the garage and the reaction that I have heard has been mixed. Some have been positive, some have been negative but overall on the bright side, the sectioning body has some time to figure out all the kinks. This will be quite the storyline to follow in the coming months.

A driver who continues to impress this season has been sophomore driver Tyler Reddick. He has been continuing to impress each and every week and continued this by winning stage two at Road America. The Richard Childress Racing team is going through a lot of turmoil right now and there are a lot of questions surrounding this team. If there is one thing this team has really perfected, it's been their ability to stay around the top fifteen for the whole race, as his average running position is 15.8. This team is getting closer and closer to that elusive first career win and is knocking on the door of a playoff berth. Look for Tyler Reddick to continue to improve each week as the season continues.

The driver that I have winning this week is Denny Hamlin. What a year it has been for this team. Overall, Hamlin's 8.4 average finish is the highest of anyone. He has done everything but win this season but that is going to change this week. Atlanta is a track that has treated him well, he has a victory here along with six top fives and four hundred and nineteen laps led, (second only to Kyle Larson among active drivers). He will greatly benefit from a third place starting spot as well, with how much this high downforce package makes it difficult to pass at these types of racetracks. If Hamlin can minimize his mistakes and put a whole race together, this will be the week he gets that elusive first win of 2021. Look for the #11 FedEx Toyota to go to victory lane on Sunday.

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The Coogs play Miami on Friday night. Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images.

Number one seed University of Houston is favored by 7.5 points over No. 5 Miami, and No. 2 University of Texas is favored by 4 over No. 3 Xavier Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in Kansas City.

Talk about opening acts. If both UH and UT win, they’ll meet Sunday in a good ol’ WWE-style Texas death match for a berth in the Final Four at NRG Stadium in Houston. Thank you, Mr. Schedule Maker.

How much do you think Cougar fans would love for UH to get their hands on the Longhorns with so much at stake?

For one example, let’s go back to the future, Oct. 21, 2023, when Big 12 rivals UH and UT meet in football at TDECU Stadium on the Houston campus. The game already is a lock sellout with tickets in the upper deck commanding $141 per ticket on the secondary market. It will be UH’s first year in the big boy Big 12 and UT’s last go-around before heading to the SEC.

One last opportunity for lasting bragging rights.

That’s for a UH football game. At home. Where the Cougars typically have trouble packing half the house. For example, the Cougars will be hosting the Sam Houston Bearkats at TDECU Stadium a month earlier. Tickets for that game, the same exact seat going for $141 against UT, can be had right now … $17.

Yeah, there’s something special about UH getting the opportunity to face UT. In anything. Anywhere. And it’s been a long time since the two teams, once co-members of the Southwest Conference together, have met on the basketball court. A full decade, in fact. The last time they played was March 20, 2013 with the Cougars prevailing 73-72 in something called the College Basketball Invitational. The UH coach was James Dickey. UT was coached by Rick Barnes. Joe Young led the Cougars with 18 points. The Horns’ leading scorer was Julien Lewis with 28. UH finished that season with a 20-13 record. UT limped home at 16-18.

That was then, this is now. The UH-Miami game will air at 6:10 p.m. Friday on CBS with UH grad Jim Nantz calling the play-by-play. The game will alsO stream on Hulu +++. ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Cougars a 90 percent chance of winning. We’ll take it.

The UT-Xavier game will follow at 8:45 p.m. on CBS. The Horns have a 70 percent chance of beating the Musketeers. If both chalks come through, they’ll meet Sunday afternoon with the game on CBS.

The Cougars have made six Final Four appearances: 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983, 1984, 2021. The Horns have made three Final Fours, the last time two decades ago.

Here’s the only sure bet if UH and UT meet Sunday - get to your sports bar early if you want a seat. This could be memorable.

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