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The NASCAR report: Penzoil 400 preview in Las Vegas

The Monster Energy Cup returns to Las Vegas. Getty Images

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series makes its return to Sin City for the Penzoil 400. This begins their "West Coast swing" as they go to Phoenix next week and to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. the next. This is the part of the season where we truly begin to see who is for real and who is just a flash in the pan. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is another half-mile oval, but this track has character. At this track there are plenty of places to pass, but that doesn't mean we still don't see some beatin' and bangin' on and off the track. Last year Kyle Busch and Joey Logano had to be separated after Busch approached Logano and hit him in the face.

The track has also produced some of the most exciting finishes to date. Last year Brad Keselowski was two laps away from victory until an electrical issue dropped him to fourth, handing the victory to eventual champion Martin Truex, Jr. Three years earlier in 2014 Keselowski  was in the complete opposite position when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was leading the race but on the final lap, Jr. ran out of gas on the backstretch handing the victory to Keselowski, so it is fair to say the track is just as unpredictable as the city it's located in so on that note here are my predictions for the Penzoil 400:

The favorite going into this week would obviously be Keselowski. As I have mentioned above, the man has been up front here when it has counted and was also victorious in 2016 when he beat out Busch in the final six laps. While he is easily the chic pick for this race, I am going to go in a different direction, I think that this week Kyle Larson will come out on top. While yes, over his four starts at the track he has had a 15.75 average finish, I don't believe that they is indicative of how well he has been running beforehand. This track has not been kind to Larson in the past even in his time in the Xfinity series, when in 2013 he was leading early in the race before he was turned by Trevor Bayne.

The bad luck also extended to the Cup side as well, only gaining one top five last year when he finished second but this year I think it will all turn around for the 42 crew. This track caters to Kyle's driving style; he usually drives all the way up near the wall and with some of the passes we have seen here that should be perfect for him. My dark horse for this weekend's race is Ryan Blaney. While yes, he has been far from an underdog this season seeing how he is second in points currently, but he is still at 18/1 odds to win the race and has not been listed as one of the favorites to win. Blaney has run exceptionally well here. While he has only run here twice, in those two races he has finished sixth and seventh, so it is fair to say that this is one of his best race tracks. Look for Blaney to be up front for this week as he tries to navigate his Ford to victory lane.

Overall, in my opinion Las Vegas is always one my favorite races to watch and with nothing but sunshine in the weather forecast (unlike last week) I can't wait to see who comes out on top. This is going to be a race you won't want to miss.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at and the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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