THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Cup Series at Road America: Kwik Trip 250 picks, preview

NASCAR Cup Series at Road America: Kwik Trip 250 picks, preview
Christopher Bell is starting to hit his stride. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The Cup Series makes its second trip to the Badger State this weekend for the Kwik Trip 250 at Road America. This track is one of the most unique road courses in all the world. Opened in 1955, Road America is the largest racetrack on the NASCAR schedule. It has 14 corners and multiple long straightaways. Considering how massive of a track it is, we will see fuel strategy play a big part in the race. The race should be a three-four stop race, so we will more than likely see drivers try to short-pit to cut the race strategy in half, similar to what we saw Matt DiBenedetto do last season.

Last Week at Nashville, Chase Elliott was able to get a good enough restart and hold off Kurt Busch to claim his 15th career win and his second of 2022. On the last restart, there was a bit of controversy after Brad Keselowski crashed with 3 laps to go. Regardless, NASCAR did not throw the caution and the race continued on, allowing Elliott to drive off into the sunset. At first glance, not throwing the yellow flag seemed like it wasn’t the right decision.

Brad was clearly off the pace and possibly laying down debris, that alone seemed like it was worthy of a caution but after a second look, I understand why NASCAR made the decision they did. There had been a long rain delay, and they were ready to get back home. Regardless, the race was won and lost by the decision to pit or not to pit on the final restart. The dominant car of the day was Kyle Busch, his chances of victory were dashed after the team decided to go down pit road and give up their track position. I am sure that decision by crew chief Ben Beshore is one he’d like to have back.

Another team that struggled in pit road was the #23 of Bubba Wallace. All season, this pit crew has continued to let down their driver, and it’s a shame because they have had some really fast cars. No one else in the field passed as many cars as he did, and it was all because he would either have to deal with a loose wheel or a bad pit stop. While he was able to rebound to an acceptable 12th place finish, the results haven’t been indicative of where they should finish. At Kansas, Bubba had the fastest car on the track for the better part of the day but again because of a loose wheel, he would have to come from the back.

Now I can understand that this team is a new team and didn’t have the luxury of buying a whole race team like Trackhouse did, but this is becoming more and more of a habit, and it’s costing them dearly. This week will be even more challenging considering that the cars will enter their pit-stall in the opposite direction. Let's hope for their sake that they get these things figured out, they are running out of time to try and make the playoffs and join their teammate Kurt Busch in the round of 16.

Ryan Blaney was able to complete an incredible comeback last week. Earlier in the race, Blaney would slap the wall in turn four and spin. He would rebound to finish third and appeared to have a car to contend for the win on the last restart. Blaney has really flown under the radar this season. While he hasn’t won a points paying event this season, no one has been more consistent than him. Blaney is having a season similar to Denny Hamlin's from last year, as he scores a lot of stage points and finishes upfront almost weekly. He didn’t have a good race here last year, but these cars are much different, so it will be a completely different racetrack.

My pick to win this weekend is Christopher Bell. To some, this might be a bit of a surprise pick, but he has been running really well. Over the last six races, no one has a higher average finish than he does. It seems like he is starting to hit his stride, and now they are going to a race he nearly won last season. A win would almost be required for Bell to make the chase, right now he is safe. But with the abundance of winners we have seen this season, it will benefit him the most to get a victory and assure his ticket to the playoffs. If he can continue this run of consistency, look out for Bell to take the checkered flag on Sunday.

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Braves beat Houston in extra innings, 5-4. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Marcell Ozuna hit his major league-leading eighth homer and Orlando Arcia’s RBI single in the 10th inning lifted the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

It completes a three-game sweep of the struggling Astros and is Atlanta’s fourth straight victory.

The Braves scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie it at 4-4. Michael Harris II started the 10th as the automatic runner on second and there was one out in the inning when Seth Martinez (1-1) intentionally walked Matt Olson.

Ozuna lined out to right field to send Harris to third base. Arcia then singled on a ground ball to left field to score Harris and put the Braves on top.

Pinch-runner Jake Meyers was on second when Kyle Tucker walked with no outs in the 10th. Meyers moved to third on a fly out by Yainer Diaz but Jeremy Peña grounded into a double play to end it.

A.J. Minter (3-1) got the last two outs of the ninth for the win and Raisel Iglesias earned his fifth save.

Reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. added his first homer of the season to help the Braves to the victory. Ozuna also leads the majors with 23 RBIs and he extended his hitting streak to 16 games, which ties his career best and is the longest active streak in the majors.

Yordan Alvarez and Mauricio Dubón both homered for the Astros, who fell to 6-14 and are last in the AL West.

There was one out in the first when Alvarez connected on his homer to the seats in left field to put Houston up 1-0.

Ozuna opened the second with his 432-foot shot to left field, which bounced off the wall and tied the game.

Acuña put the Braves up 2-1 when he sent the first pitch of the fifth inning to straightaway center field.

The Astros tied it on an RBI single by Alex Bregman in the fifth and Kyle Tucker’s RBI double came next to put the Astros up 3-2.

Dubón hit his first home run of the year off Jesse Chavez to start Houston’s sixth and push the lead to 4-2.

Harris singled to start the seventh before a ground-rule double by Austin Riley. Olson reached, and Harris scored on a fielding error by first baseman José Abreu when he couldn’t grab a routine ground ball.

There was one out in the inning when Riley scored on a sacrifice fly by Arcia to tie it at 4-all.

Houston starter J.P. France allowed four hits and two runs in five innings.

Max Fried gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings.

UP NEXT

Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a series against Texas on Friday night with LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 4.58 ERA) on the mound.

Astros: Houston is also off Thursday before ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night against Washington. The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

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