NASCAR heads to Hotlanta for the QuikTrip 500

Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Hotlanta this week for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. This track has been a staple among the NASCAR Cup Series since it was built back in 1960. This track provides a lot of spacious green flag runs, so we could see a lot of strategy this week as it is one of the more tame races on the schedule.

This season has been unpredictable to say the least. There have been five races and five different winners as the streak continued last week with Martin Truex Jr. winning at Phoenix. The race was fairly mild in spite of the race's twenty-two lead changes. There was a lot of speed early on from the Penske Fords as both Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney won stages one and two, but they were both no match for Truex as he made the race winning pass with twenty-four laps to go. This is a statement win for the 2017 champion as he looks to establish himself as the championship favorite.

While Truex and his #19 team were celebrating, his teammate Kyle Busch has been experiencing the exact opposite as his struggles continue. Two weeks ago at Las Vegas, Kyle made an awesome comeback after struggling for most of the day to finish third. Last week was a much different story. The two-time champion struggled mightily as he was outside the top twenty for most of the day. To add insult to injury, he was involved in an incident with Ross Chastain. This has easily been the most frustrating period of his career as he nearly went winless all of 2020 until winning at Texas in the fall. During this slump, there have been many who questioned why he was struggling so bad. One of the biggest reasons could be NASCAR's omission of practice and qualifying as he was never really able to adjust to that. Another could be he still isn't used to working with his new crew-chief, Ben Beshore. Whatever the reason, rowdy and his team still have plenty of time to turn things around.

The favorite to win this week has to be last week's winner, Martin Truex Jr. Over the last four races here, Truex has been one of the three best drivers by far. He currently holds an impressive 3.33 average finish here since 2017. Plus, he has a lot of good momentum going into this race considering his win last week. I look for him to lead a lot of laps this week considering he will be on the front row. He will be hard to beat come Sunday. Look for the #19 Toyota Camry to be a true contender this week.

The driver that I have winning this week is Brad Keselowski. Over the last two weeks, Brad has been on quite a roll with back-to-back top fives including a second place finish last week. Even though his season started off kind of rocky, Brad has been one of the best drivers out there. He is due for a win, and he's coming to a track where he has been great. He has won here twice in the last four years. Look for him to go to victory lane and become the sixth different winner in 2021.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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