THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR rolls the dice in Vegas this weekend

All bets are off in Vegas. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas this Sunday for the South Point 400. This track is one of the many mile and a half bullrings that we see on the NASCAR schedule. It is known for how hard it is to get on to pit road so look for the possibility of speeding penalties. Another thing to look out for is the heat. As we all know it gets hot in Las Vegas in September, this will make the track much more slippery and there is a good chance that there will be tire problems. It should be a good race though, and I am looking forward to seeing who moves on as the round of 12 begins.

Last week, Kevin Harvick went on to his ninth victory of 2020 as he continues to tear through competition. In the closing laps he and Kyle Busch battled it out in one of the best races we have seen all year. The race was different from what we usually see at Bristol as there weren't very many wrecks and there were a lot of cars that went a lap down as there were only six cars on the lead lap. A few people were critical of the racing last week which personally I didn't understand. This race had everything you would want it to, two of the best drivers in the sport going for the win.

There was news a plenty this week in the NASCAR world. It all started on Tuesday when it was announced that Ross Chastain would take over the #42 Camaro for Chip Ganassi in 2021. This doesn't come as too much of a surprise as he had driven for them in the Xfinity Series. He was lauded as the early candidate when Larson was suspended and many were surprised when he wasn't named the replacement for this year. But in the end, it all came full circle and the driver we all thought would get the ride ended up with it. Personally, I like this move. Ross has more than proved he is capable of running up front and winning in the Xfinity Series and now he is going to get the opportunity of a lifetime in decent equipment.

The other big headline this week was the announcement that Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan would be purchasing the Germain Racing charter and starting their own team in 2021 with Bubba Wallace as the driver. This is a HUGE deal for NASCAR as arguably one of the most recognizable brands in the world is coming on board. These rumors had been persistent over the last few weeks and many questioned the validity of the reports until it was confirmed on Tuesday that this was happening. More than likely what we will see with this new team is that they will receive cars from the former Levaine Family Racing team and technical support from Joe Gibbs Racing. This will also be the first time that a driver will own a team while driving for another team since Dale Earnhardt did it when he owned DEI and drove for Richard Childress. This will certainly be a huge boost for Bubba as he will now get the funding he deserves. Look out for this team going into the future.

As the week went on the rumors got even crazier as it was reported by Adam Stern that NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway were in talks to run a dirt race! This was a huge surprise to me as there was hardly anything to suggest this was even an idea. This truly came out of nowhere. This isn't really all that new to the track as it hosted a World of Outlaws race back in 2000 but never has there been a full-on stock car race on the dirt there. It will be interesting to see if this comes to fruition in the next few weeks.

The driver that I have winning this week at Vegas is Brad Keselowski. Over the last few times they have been coming to this track, he has been nearly untouchable. He has four top fives, six top tens and a victory back in 2018. His lowest finish here has been seventh! He has just been phenomenal here and I look for that to continue. This would be big for Brad if he can win considering that would put him through to the next round, and he won't have to worry so much about the unknown next week at Talladega. I look for Brad to take his Mustang to victory lane come Sunday.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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