Race Rundown

The NASCAR report: Ticket Guardian 500 preview

Alex Bowman has a good shot to get his first career win on Sunday. Alex Bowman/Facebook

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Valley of the Sun in Avondale Arizona for the Ticket Guardian 500 at the newly renamed ISM Raceway. In the past two weeks, it has been all Kevin Harvick. Not only has he won the previous two races, but he has utterly dominated the competition. Overall, Harvick has led 395 laps while the rest of the field has led 404 laps! Not only is he the best driver in NASCAR right now but this week he goes to his best track. Over his thirty starts there he has won eight times, no driver in history has more wins or laps led than Kevin Harvick. It makes sense why he is so hard to beat there seeing how this track has many of the same characteristics as the old NASCAR Winston West Series and Truck Series.

While ISM is not the same type of track as the late Mesa Marin or Irwindale, the track has narrow corners and lower banking that you would see at a short track. In the Back straightway, there is a “Dogleg” that causes most drivers to dip below the yellow line and try to make a pass in the third corner, sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t. The track will also play host to lots of side-by-side racing. Two years ago Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards finished nose-to-nose in one of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR history. Look for there to be close racing this Sunday.

Here are my predictions, the obvious choice this week would be the 9/4 favorite and the man I mentioned earlier in the article, Kevin Harvick. Winning three out of the first four races of the season is almost unheard-of. The only times I can remember where someone even got close to doing this was David Person in 1976, Jeff Gordon in 1997 and Matt Kenseth in 2009. These drivers won the first two races of the season while Harvick won the second and third. But to start the season 3-1 would be uncharted waters in the sport, and if anyone can do it, I believe that Harvick has the best chance to. While he is the heavy favorite, I believe this week’s winner will be Alex Bowman. That's right, the Phoenix native will get his first career win at his home track.

While he isn’t the favorite for many, most have forgotten how close he came to victory here in 2016, but I haven’t. Bowman led a race-high, 194 laps and was two laps away from the finish when a crash involving him and Matt Kenseth ruined his chances and dropped him to sixth giving the victory to Joey Logano. Bowman comes into this race at 40/1 odds, but if there is any sleeper that can come out and surprise us, it would be him. This race has produced some memorable finishes in the past and hopefully, this week is no different.

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

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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