NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma: Picks, preview

NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma: Picks, preview
Start your engines! Photo via: Wiki Commons

The Cup Series makes its annual trip out west this weekend to the world-famous Sonoma Raceway in the Napa Valley in California. This 2.5-mile road course is a favorite among drivers and teams because of the beautiful scenery and how much fun it is to drive on. The corner that is the most challenging is the carousel. With this corner being as tight as it is, we see many drivers try and make a pass there, and it does not usually work out. It also doesn’t help that the track is highly elevated, so you aren’t sure what is going on in front of you. This will be a hot spot come race day. The key to this race is to manage your brakes, which will become difficult considering how much they will use them in this race.

Last week at Gateway, Joey Logano out dueled his arch rival Kyle Busch in a fantastic battle in the closing laps to capture his second win of 2022. In the final three laps, it appeared that Busch was going to be able to hang on for the win but after a caution from Kevin Harvick, Busch would not get a good enough restart and Logano would make the race winning pass.

When the race was over, Logano’s victory was the second-biggest headline of the day, as Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin’s dust-up was the biggest talking point. Early in the race, Chastain and Hamlin were racing around each other and no matter how hard he tried, Chastain just couldn’t get around him. Finally, in stage 2, Ross decided to just punt him out of the way, which effectively ended Hamlin's day. With a good result out of the question, Denny’s sole objective was to annoy Chastain. Any time the #1 would get to Hamlin, he would jump out of the throttle and hold him up and make it next to impossible to pass him. Chastain would then get into the back of Chase Elliott and spin him out as well. Elliott would also retaliate by pushing Chastain into turn one. Needless to say, Chastain pretty much made all of St. Louis mad at him, but despite all of that he was able to rebound for a decent 8th place finish. When the race was over, Ross was extremely apologetic, he would take full responsibility for his driving. He would also say that he would talk to Hamlin and that he “owed half the field an apology.” While Hamlin would respond by saying he appreciated his apology, payback was still coming. This will be must-see TV going forward as a new rivalry has emerged.

Chastain wasn’t the only one who ruffled some feathers as Ricky Stenhouse Jr would run into the back of Bubba Wallace and spin him out. We would also see Todd Gilland and Cole Custer get together as well. When the checkered flag flew, everyone hated everyone, a massive success for everyone who watched it. This track will be one all fans have circled on their calendar.

The driver I have winning this weekend is Kurt Busch. Last week at Gateway, he was one of the fastest cars on the track, he backed it up with a victory in stage 2 and an impressive third place finish. Overall, 23XI has shown lots of speed over the course of this season from both of their drivers, and now Kurt gets a chance to showcase his road course racing talents at a track that he knows how to get around better than anyone. While he only has one win here, his experience has earned him an impressive 9.5 average finish here. He also has a habit of rebounding and coming from the back and reeling off great results. We saw it last season when he started 30th and climbed his way all the way to 6th. Kurt is one of the most talented drivers out there, and he continues to prove it week and week out. I look for him to take the checkered flag this Sunday and continue his career resurgence.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Who holds the power in Houston? Composite Getty Image.

It should come as no surprise that after a slow start to the season, fans and media are starting to voice concerns about the organization's leadership and direction. The latest evidence of this involved Astros adviser Reggie Jackson and the comments he made on Jon Heyman's podcast, The Show.

Jackson discussed the Astros reported interest in starting pitcher Blake Snell. He said that ultimately, Snell was looking for a deal the Astros weren't comfortable with in terms of money and structure of the contract.

Which is interesting considering the Astros were okay with paying 5-years, $95 million for closer Josh Hader, but not willing to pay Snell 2-years, $62 million. We believe the opt-outs in Snell's contract were a dealbreaker for Houston. And of course the money played a role.

However, the Astros passing on Snell is not the intriguing part of the story. It was Jackson talking about the club's power structure in the front office and how they go about making decisions.

“Being fiscally responsible is what kicked us out of the Snell deal… That's too much for him… Between the 4 or 5 people who make decisions with the Astros, we don't play that game,” said Jackson.

Based on Jackson's comments in the interview, the decision makers are Jim Crane, Dana Brown, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Reggie. But not necessarily in that order. He also mentioned that they had conversations with manager Joe Espada and his staff, plus some input from the analytics department.

These comments add to the concerns we've had about the front office since Crane moved on from GM James Click and operated without a general manager for several months. Which led to the disastrous signing of Jose Abreu and to a lesser extent Rafael Montero.

Which begs the question, are the Astros in a better spot now with their front office? Many blame Dana Brown for the state of the starting rotation. While there were some red flags this spring, anticipating injuries to Jose Urquidy, Justin Verlander, and Framber Valdez is asking a lot.

But only bringing in Hader to replace all the innings left behind by Hector Neris, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman, and Ryne Stanek always felt risky.

Finally, what can the Astros due in the short-term to weather the storm while Framber and JV rehab from injury?

And is Hunter Brown the biggest liability in the rotation?

Be sure to watch the video above for the full in-depth discussion.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome