THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: The Geico 500 goes down this Sunday at Talladega

Photo via: WikiCommons.

The time is here. NASCAR heads to the world-famous Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. This track is easily the biggest and baddest racetrack on the face of the planet. Coming into this weekend, the drivers will not have any practice or qualifying sessions so it will be interesting how this changes things. NASCAR will also be implementing more safety regulations including extra roll bars, and they will also be cutting back on horsepower from 550 to 510. The reason for these changes was to try to prevent an accident like we saw at Daytona with Ryan Newman. This could very well mean a much different race on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the race.

We will also be seeing fans this weekend as it was announced a few weeks ago that Talladega will allow up to 5,000 spectators including limited camping. While it isn't exactly the full crowds we typically see here, it will be a relief to see at least some normalcy. Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim his 40th career victory after fending off Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. It appeared as if Elliott was on his way to victory until he approached the lapped car of Joey Logano. With Logano still mad about his run-in with Chase at Bristol, he didn't make it easy on Elliott as he held him up and all through the backstretch clearing a path for Denny to take the lead. When the dust settled and Logano was asked about it in a NASCAR Sirius interview, Logano responded by saying "you think I am going to make his life easy after two weeks ago?"

Overall, I have to commend him on how he got back at Elliott. There weren't any wrecked race cars and when it was over, Elliott still had a chance to win. I would like to think that after this, the beef is over, but we will have to see in the coming weeks what's next between these two. While Hamlin was the winner, the story of the race had to be Tyler Redick. The rookie driver went on to claim his first top five finish of the season and his third top ten of the season. This young man has proven that he can run with the best of them week in and week out and what makes it all the more impressive is that his average starting position is 21.4. To see him charge all the way through the pack has been one of the most exciting things about this season. He has rejuvenated this race team and I would not be surprised if he was to win a race this season. Look for Reddick in the #8 Camaro to be a threat.

Another driver who has really been doing a great job these past couple of weeks has been Michael McDowell. The journeyman driver has finished both fourteenth and fifteenth in the last two weeks at Homestead and Martinsville. McDowell has done a great job over the past few weeks and appears to be in position to have another good run this weekend at Talladega considering how good he is at plate tracks. I look for McDowell to be a dark horse contender for a win this week, but the driver that I have winning is Ryan Newman. As we all know, tracks like Talladega and Daytona have been awful to him. He has been involved in some of the worst wrecks on tracks like these, including his vicious crash at Daytona in February. But this week, I think things will be different.

After all, he does have the highest average finish among all drivers on these types of tracks and has been a football field away from winning here twice. Seeing Newman win here would be one of the biggest feel-good stories not just of this year, but in NASCAR's history and I think the veteran will get it done come Sunday. Look for Newman to come back and find redemption and win his first race since 2017.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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