THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR goes All-Star racing in the Lone Star State

NASCAR comes to Texas this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time in NASCAR history, Texas Motor Speedway plays host to NASCAR's annual All-Star Race. This race will feature each winner from 2020 and 2021 plus past champions and past All-Star Race winners. As we all know, this is where the sport pulls out all the stops and really tries a lot of new things. Some of them work, a lot of them don't. This week will be no different as there will be a myriad of changes. The biggest change of note is NASCAR's reduction on horsepower. Now I know there is a lot of gloom and doom in that sentence but to play devil's advocate here, I really think that this can bunch the cars up a whole lot more than what we see on an average Sunday. It should be a wild weekend when the green flag drops.

The format for the All-Star Race is vastly different from what we see on a typical race-day. First and foremost, before the main event as usual there will be a qualifying race for the drivers who have yet to win from 2019-2021. This race is known as the All-Star Open, some of the notable names that will be in this race are Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick. The race will consist of three segments, with the first two being twenty laps and then a ten lap dash at the end. The winners of each segment move on to the main event. This race is usually pretty crazy considering how much is on the line.

Another interesting aspect of this race is the fan vote. This grants the final starting spot to the driver who has the most votes on NASCAR's website. This will be a very competitive race with many drivers who can win. The three that really stand out are Tyler Reddick, Matt DiBenedetto and Ross Chastain. All three drivers have been in the top five this year in contention to win a race, so those are the drivers to look out for to race their way in. The favorite to win the fan vote has to be Bubba Wallace. Although unpopular among some of the more unsavory characters in this sport, he has a lot of people that are behind him. And while he will also be a threat to win one of the segments, I think he can fall back on the fan vote. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

After the open comes the main event, the NASCAR All-Star Race. The format for the race this year is one of the most confusing yet as there will be SIX SEGMENTS! Including an invert at the end of each segment and a thirty-thousand dollar reward for the fastest pit crew at the end of the final segment. The first four will consist of fifteen laps. Segment five will be different as they will run thirty laps with a mandatory pit-stop at the conclusion. When it's all said and done, the sixth and final segment will be ten laps for $1,000,000. It seems every year this race gets more and more confusing to the viewer and the drivers themselves. Let's hope next season is easier to understand.

The driver I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been a dream season for him as he's now won three races after taking the field to school last week at Sonoma. And with all the success this year, why stop now? Besides, he will be starting on the pole after the field was set by a random draw this week, so he already has the track position on everyone else. That will be a big momentum boost and while the inversion of the top eight to twelve cars won't let him run away, we have seen it time and time again how good he is at driving through the field. Look for Larson to continue his hot streak and score the big bucks this week at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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