THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Richmond: Picks and preview

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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Astros defeat the Orioles, 5-1. Composite Getty Image.

Ronel Blanco pitched seven strong innings and Chas McCormick homered twice to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Yordan Alvarez added a two-run shot to help Houston extend its winning streak to four games.

Blanco (8-2), who threw seven hitless innings in his last start, allowed four hits and a run with three strikeouts for his third straight win.

Alvarez put the Astros on top with his 16th homer, which came off Corbin Burnes (8-3) in the third, and McCormick made it 4-1 in the fifth. McCormick got his fifth career multihomer game when he connected again in the eighth.

Burnes allowed five hits, including a season-high two homers and a season-most four runs in seven innings to snap his career-best streak of 10 consecutive quality starts. He was 5-0 in seven starts since a loss at Washington on May 7.

Jordan Westburg homered in the second for the Orioles, who set a franchise record with 21 straight games with a home run to surpass the 1998 squad's 20-game streak.

Baltimore had troubled stringing hits together Saturday after scoring 28 runs combined in the last two games. The top four batters in their order combined to go 1 for 13 against Blanco and Houston's bullpen.

Ryan Pressly threw a scoreless eighth before Josh Hader struck out two in a perfect ninth to end it.

Westburg connected off Blanco with one out in the second to put the Orioles up 1-0.

Yainer Diaz opened Houston’s second with a triple on a line drive to right field. The Astros tied it when he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubón with one out.

McCormick singled with no outs in the third and the shot to center field by Alvarez came with two outs to put Houston on top 3-1.

McCormick’s home run to the seats in left field extended the lead to 4-1 with one out in the fifth.

Cedric Mullins tripled off the wall in center with one out in the seventh. Colton Cowser hit a sharp line drive, but was robbed of a hit when shortstop Jeremy Peña made a leaping catch for the second out. Blanco then retired Ramón Urías to end the inning and leave Mullins stranded.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Jake Bloss, who made his major league debut Friday night, was placed on the injured list with right shoulder discomfort.

ROSTER MOVES

Astros: RHP Nick Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday night. ... LHP Bryan King was selected to the MLB roster and RHP Luis Contreras was recalled from Sugar Land on Saturday. … RHP Alex Speas was designated for assignment.

UP NEXT

Houston LHP Framber Valdez (5-5, 3.91 ERA) opposes RHP Albert Suárez (3-1, 2.05) in the series finale Sunday.

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