THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard preview, predictions
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.