NASCAR heads to Hotlanta for the QuikTrip 500

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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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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