THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads for the Dirt at Bristol

Watch for Chase Elliott this weekend! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Thunder Valley for the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Because of the special circumstances of this race, the format will be much different from what we are accustomed to seeing on a typical race weekend. Instead of qualifying, there will be four heat races that determine the starting grid for the main event on Saturday night. There will also be points awarded to the top ten. The drivers that improved their positions will also be awarded passing points as well. The driver with the most passing points will start from the pole. The race on Saturday will be broken up into three stages and there will be no live pit stops during the race. This will certainly be an interesting race as the cars will have plenty of new modifications, including mud flaps. It should be interesting to see how this race differs from last year’s.

Last week, William Byron thoroughly dominated en route to his second victory of 2022. The race was heavily criticized by fans as there wasn’t a whole lot of passing up-front. When the race was over, there were a mere six lead changes. Many even suggested shortening races from 400 miles to 300. This is yet another example of NASCAR fans overreacting to a bad race, as they do each week. It seems like to some of these people that if there isn’t a memorable finish in every race, they want drastic changes to the product, and it’s becoming more and more ridiculous. This is a sport that has undergone many changes over the year trying to cater to this type of fan, and it needs to stop.

Regardless of the criticism, William Byron is becoming more and more of a threat each week as he became the first repeat winner of 2022. He has also finished in the top five in four of the last five races. When Byron first started competing in the Cup Series, he struggled a bit. He would string together good finishes but was not able to capitalize and get his first victory until his third season in 2020. After that, he has consistently been in the top five on a weekly basis and has been able to contend for wins. The biggest factor in his success has to be his crew chief, Rudy Fugle. He has certainly helped when it comes to setting up the racecar and getting the feedback from his driver that is needed. Both have also done a great job at race strategy, as Byron has scored the most stage points of anyone so far. This team will certainly make a deep run when we get closer to the playoffs.

One driver that has been really impressive as of late has been Austin Dillon. After back-to-back crashes at Phoenix and Atlanta, Dillon has really been able to rebound strongly, with two tenth place finishes and a third last week at Martinsville. His team Richard Childress Racing seemed to struggle a bit after Kevin Harvick departed in 2013 for Stewart-Haas Racing. But now it seems like they are finding their way back to being a competitive team again. Both of their drivers are knocking on the door. Look out for both Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon down the line, they are bound to surprise a few folks.

With all of that being said, the driver that I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. Overall, 2022 has been a consistently good season for Chase. He’s the points leader with the third most amount of stage points accumulated and has five top-ten finishes. While his stats at this race last year weren’t overly impressive, he was solid and was able to score a tenth place finish. Another major factor to look out for is the experience he will get in Friday’s truck race, as he will drive the #7 truck for Spire Motorsports. While it may not seem like a lot, of the three drivers that have driven the truck to start the weekend, (Austin Hill, Alex Bowman, and William Byron) two of them have gone on to win in the series they score points in. Having these drivers run this truck has clearly helped them in some way, this is a great sign for Chase. Look for Elliott to pick up his first win of 2022 come Saturday.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans remain winless as the team comes up short against the Bears in Chicago. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Davis Mills made two costly mistakes with interceptions. The first one took points off the board and the second allowed the Bears to kick a game-winning field goal. These were the first two of the season and they highlight the need for near perfection from the offense.

2. Davis Mills claimed he made the correct read on the second interception. He said the tip is the reason the Bears intercepted it. I disagree. It looks like Roquan Smith read it like a book and might have been there anyway.

3. The other interception from Davis Mills wasn’t a good read either. Mills made a quick decision and rifled the ball to Brandin Cooks but the defensive back basically had his whole body between Cooks and the ball. The Bears made a nice play to come down with the deflection.

4. Davis Mills is not to be trusted in moments where most quarterbacks can move the football. The Texans failed to get into field goal range at the end of both halves. Mills has consistently failed in those spots this season.

5. There were some curious calls from Pep Hamilton. The Texans don’t have much talent, but Hamilton has had some unique moments. There was a screen to Pharaoh Brown on third and long. The team called a screen on third and one. There was a telegraph on third and short in the red zone.

6. Why can’t this team get the wideouts more heavily involved? Rex Burkhead shouldn’t be getting the second greatest number of targets. Brandin Cooks shouldn’t leave a game where he has less than 10 targets. It would be worth scheming the ball to Cooks a few more times than he is currently getting the ball.

7. Kamu Grugier-Hill is not playing well right now. The veteran just bounced right off a Bears running back at one point. He is also a liability in coverage. Christian Harris is hopefully back after next week but it would be worth seeing if Garrett Wallow has anything more to his game than the veteran.

8. The rushing defense was assaulted again. This time by running wideouts and a backup running back. Lovie Smith needs to look at playing time and the depth chart to see if something can get corrected here. This can’t keep happening earlier and earlier in games each week.

9. Jerry Hughes has been one of the best players on this team through three games. The veteran has been consistent and flashed more than a few times. A nice addition by the team this offseason.

10. Jalen Pitre is so damn good. He’s already one of the best players on this team. He had two interceptions today to go along with a sack. He wasn’t fooled on play action and nailed Justin Fields for the sack. When it felt like the Bears were getting whatever they wanted, Pitre darted in for a tackle in the backfield. He’s been awesome.

11. There must be some evaluation from the Texans. The team might need to ask if everything they’ve put together at this point is the right direction. There is a sound argument the team should be 3-0. Instead, the team is winless, and closing in on hopelessness

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