THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Richmond: Picks and preview

Keep an eye on Martin Truex Jr. this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

This week, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. This is race number seven in a season that has seen six different winners. 2022 has been one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory. There have been three first-time winners. We have seen an all-out youth movement, as the last thirteen winners dating back to last season have all been under the age of 29. If there is one track where this streak can be broken, it has to be here as it’s the last racetrack to see a winner over the age of 30 with Martin Truex Jr. This will be an interesting storyline to follow as the veterans such as Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have been struggling as of late.

Last week Ross Chastain was able to finally capture that elusive first career victory at Circuit of the Americas. He did it in a dramatic fashion as he had to lay the bumper to AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman to get by in the final two corners. Allmendinger and Bowman were asked about it after the race and neither one seemed to be as upset as one would have thought. Allmendinger took a bit more of a critical tone by saying, “at the end of the day, we have to look ourselves in the mirror, and if you're okay with it, you're okay with it.” It seems like this is becoming more and more common for how a lot of these drivers are approaching the final laps of the race and what they would do to get a victory. While a lot of motorsports fans may think that Chastain was dirty driving, It’s important to note that this has been how stock car racing has always been. I don’t have too much of a problem with what he did, besides Allmendinger did the same thing a few corners earlier. On the last lap, all is fair, and all three drivers proved that.

While Chastain and his Trackhouse team were celebrating, it was the opposite end of the spectrum for Joe Gibbs Racing and their Toyota team. While Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch both showed speed in stage two, after that it all went downhill fast. Busch would get involved in an incident with Chase Elliott and then would spin out on the final lap. His teammate Hamlin would lose the handle on his car and fade back to 18th position. It is still very early in the season though and there is still a lot of time for them to rebound, they have four very talented racecar drivers.

This week, I have Martin Truex Jr going to victory lane. Over the last few races here, the 2017 champion has been nearly untouchable at this track. He has won here three times and has yet to finish worse than fifth. As I mentioned earlier, Toyota has been a bit off this year and Truex has had some bad luck including a crash at Phoenix. But other than that, he’s been the most consistent of the bunch. This would be a perfect place for this #19 team to break out, I look for Truex to go to victory lane when all is said and done.

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It's Draft SZN! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

On Thursday June 22, the NBA will hold their annual draft. With the Rockets owning the number four overall pick, you'd think things would be looking up for them. However, in a draft where the top three players are all expected to be immediate impact guys, the drop begins where the Rockets are selecting. Armed with some young talent, cap space, and a new head coach, the Rockets are looked at as a team on the rise. But what will help contribute to that rise?

When you have assets, you have options. There are three main options I see here for the Rockets with number four: keep the pick and select the guy you think will work best moving forward; trade up to select the guy they feel they missed out on that isn't a punk Frenchie who dislikes Houston; or trade the pick for an established star. The other option is trading the pick for a good player and a future pick/s. Let's take a look at the options:

Option 1: Keeping the pick means you're drafting the leftovers. Those leftovers start with Amen Thompson. He's the guy I believe can come in and help sooner rather than later. At 6'7 and 215 pounds, he has an NBA body. His skill set can come in handy because he's played point guard. This team could use a true point guard, but Thompson isn't exactly a traditional point. He has the size of a wing player, which allows him to see over the top of the defense. His outside shooting is abysmal and needs a vast improvement. To me, adjusting to life as a pro without his twin brother Ausar, another good draft prospect himself, will be difficult. Overall, I believe he's the guy to take at four if they decide to stay.

Option 2: Trading up to get Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller may prove to be difficult. Both teams picking ahead of the Rockets have their point guards. Charlotte wants to find Lamelo Ball a running mate and have their eyes rumored to be set on Miller. Portland is trying their best to keep Dame Lillard happy. The Rockets would be best served to trade with either team willing to move down for whatever they offer, provided it's worthwhile. Portland was just in the playoffs the last few years and aren't as far out as some would think. They're the ones I'd eye to trade with. Speaking of Portland and Dame…

Option 3: The Rockets need a point guard and Dame may be looking to get out. Help them start their rebuild and bring Dame to Houston. Or, how about the Jaylen Brown rumors? Fred VanVleet has a player option for next season, then becomes an unrestricted free agent. There are a few options of finding veteran help around the league, especially at the point. Problem is, are any of these team willing to take the Rockets' offers? It'd start with number four, and include other assets as well. This option makes sense if the organization believes the roster, with whatever vet addition they make via trade, is playoff ready.

Option 4: The last option I thought about is to trade the pick for a first rounder in next year's draft and a decent player. I see this as a last resort of sorts. But only if they do not feel comfortable with whatever player they may take. That, and if they want to save cap space for next free agency period. Not having a first rounder next year isn't as bad as one might think. The team will need to make the necessary moves this offseason to ensure that won't be an issue next draft. FOMO is real, especially when a team is rebuilding and can't use one of the best/cheapest forms of acquiring top talent.

I talked with my good friend “TC.” The guy loves basketball and even hips me to a bunch of stuff. He wants them to move up in the draft for Scoot or Miller. While he is a James Harden fan, he doesn't necessarily want him back. He wouldn't mind it, but it's not his first option. I've spoken with a lot of native Houstonians about this. They all want a winner sooner than later, but have different philosophies on how to get there. Personally, I say options two and three are my faves. Trade the pick for help, rookie or vet, and go from there. I guess we'll have to wait three more weeks before we find out. Or will we…

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