THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard preview, predictions

Chase Elliott will be the driver to beat on Sunday. Image via: Wiki Commons.

The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the most prestigious racetrack in America, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While we are used to seeing the race on the traditional oval configuration, this week NASCAR is adding a new twist as they will run on the road course instead. Because of this, most of the drivers will be making their first start on this configuration, so we will see a practice and qualifying session. The first corner will be interesting considering the speed they will be carrying from the long front straightaway. Another corner to watch is corner number seven, a lot of passes were made here in last season's Xfinity race and I expect it to be the same in the Cup Series. This will be a fun race considering the new challenges we'll see. I look forward to watching come Sunday.

Last week Kyle Larson went on to capture his fifth victory of 2021 after holding off Chase Elliott. The focus towards the end of the race was if Elliott could make up enough ground to take the victory. And while he made up a lot of ground in the end, the gap was too much for the defending champion as Larson hung on. After winning the race he is now in a dead-heat with Denny Hamlin in points for the regular-season championship and with the pace he has been on, he is going to be tough to beat. This battle will be interesting to follow considering fifteen extra bonus points are up for grabs.

The battle also rages on for the final playoff spot as Tyler Reddick was able to extend his lead over his teammate Austin Dillon but considering how unpredictable this season has been, with as many winners there have been, both drivers continue to hang on by a thread. The other drivers on the outside looking in are Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto. But considering they are so far behind in points, their only path to the playoffs is a win in the next three races. Because of the desperation of these teams, we could see a lot of different types of pit strategies come race day. This has been apparent with Matt DiBenedetto and his crew-chief Jonathan Hassler as they continue to try whatever it takes to get to victory lane and into the playoffs. This will be quite the storyline to follow over the next three weeks.

A driver who has been on a roll lately has been Christopher Bell. In the past races, he has scored two second-place finishes and two top tens. Last week at Watkins Glen, he had one of the fastest cars on the racetrack and was battling for the lead with Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr until a spin took him out of contention. Despite this, he was still able to rebound for an impressive seventh-place finish when the dust settled. It would be fair to say that a lot of people don't see the second-year driver as a championship favorite quite yet, but if he can continue to be this consistent it will be much easier for him to advance in the playoffs. He will be one to keep an eye on down the line.

I am staying on the Chase Elliott train this week as he's my pick to win come Sunday. It has become obvious as to why he's my pick because he is still virtually untouchable on road courses. After a disappointing second-place finish last week, this could be a big redemption race for him, and it will only help that he will get extra time to prepare with practice. When it comes to my predictions, I usually like to go for the guys who fly under the radar, but the numbers for Elliott are just too substantial. He will be the car to beat come Sunday.

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The Texans are still raking the money in. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Let’s just say that 2021 wasn’t the best of years for the Houston Texans.

Their All-Pro star quarterback was sued by 24 female massage therapists who alleged sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The team was accused of helping the quarterback in his questionable behavior and settled with 30 different women involved in the case.

The Texans put the quarterback in timeout and didn’t allow him to play a single down all year.

The Texans finished 4-13 and fired their coach after only one season.

The Texans were named in a lawsuit charging the NFL with racial discrimination and wound up hiring a coach who wasn’t even a finalist in their initial search.

The team owner is perceived as a low-IQ hayseed and sports talk hosts have nicknames for him like Floyd the Barber, Hee Haw and Jethro.

The team’s executive vice-president of football operations and resident Svengali has a reputation one step below a snake oil salesman at Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show in an empty field just outside the city limits.

NRG Stadium was a mausoleum last season with sidewalk scalpers selling tickets for pennies on the hundreds of dollars.

The team was outscored by 172 points, their worst point differential in team history.

In recent years, the team released their biggest and most beloved star ever, J.J. Watt, and traded their star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a pack of stale Twizzlers.

This year, the Texans will be paying three head coaches: current coach Lovie Smith, their old coach David Culley and their old-old coach Bill O’Brien.

The future doesn’t require sunglasses. Las Vegas has published early odds for all 17 Texans games in 2022. They are underdogs in every game posted, including Week 17 when the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars visit NRG Stadium.

So far, the most positive news coming out of training camp is the Texans will wear a new red helmet for one whole game this season, Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Keep staring at the shiny watch, Texans fans, you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy.

The Texans couldn’t have had a worse couple of years if Jerry Jones had sent a mole down to Houston to muck up the Texans franchise.

Things have gone so lousy for the Texans lately that even the old Enron accountants couldn’t save the bottom line, right?

You would be wrong.

The Houston Texans are a printing press for money. The Texans are valued at $4.63 billion with a big fat “B.” That’s 21 percent more than the $3.84 they were valued at in 2021 and 38 percent more than the $3.34 billion in 2020.

Can you imagine what the Texans would be worth if they had respected ownership and weren’t paying off women accusing the team of aiding a player accused of sexual misconduct, or part of a lawsuit charging racial discrimination, or played in the Super Bowl (never), made the AFC championship game (never) and actually won more games than they lost (139-182 since their inception 21 years ago)?

Each year, Sportico publishes a list of NFL team values. The Texans are No. 11 at $4.63. It’s a pretty well-to-do fraternity, with the average NFL franchise worth $4.14 billion. While the Texans are underperforming on the field, they’re over performing on their balance sheet.

The No. 1 most valuable NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys, worth upwards of $7.64 billion. That’s $630 million ahead of the No. 2 richest team in the world, the New York Yankees.

The second most-valued NFL team is the current Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams at $5.91 billion. The bargain basement NFL team is the Cincinnati Bengals, worth “only” $2.84 billion.

Sixteen NFL teams are worth more than $4 billion. The NBA and MLB have only seven teams combined valued at more than $4 billion.

The richest NBA team, despite what you see in the league standings, is the New York Knicks, around the $6 billion mark, slightly ahead of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. The richest soccer teams are Barcelona and Real Madrid, both in the $5 billion range.

Meanwhile, as Wendy Williams asks, how you doin’, Texans fan? You might not want to look at your 401k statement. Wall Street just reported its worst first half of a year since 1970.

The S&P 500 is down 20 percent this year. NASDAQ is down 30 percent. The Dow Jones is down 15 percent. The current inflation rate is 9.1 percent. If you’re not in the market and choose to sock away your money at the bank, you’re getting about 1.5 percent interest. Food and gas price are up, rents are up, home loan interest rates are up, tuition is up. You’re losing money by saving money.

You can’t win, and neither can the Houston Texans, on the field anyway. The only difference is, the Texans are raking in money like there’s no tomorrow, which starts Sept. 11 at home against Indianapolis. The Colts are 8-point favorites.

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