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NASCAR at Watkins Glen: Preview, picks

Tyler Reddick is a driver to watch this week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Upstate New York this week for its annual trip to Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is one of NASCAR’s most thrilling tracks on the schedule, we have seen some of the most intense battles here and with the playoffs on the line, we will see a lot of moves of desperation in the closing laps. Sunday will be the first race for this new car at The Glenn and with all of the new features of this race car, handling will be much better compared to what we saw in years past. There is a 38 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms in the area for Sunday, if the rains come, NASCAR will carry their rain tires just in case. Considering the Cup Series has raced in the rain only a handful of times over the course of its 74-year history, a lot of these drivers will have a difficult time adjusting to the elements. This will definitely be an interesting storyline to follow.

NASCAR will make history on Sunday as seven international drivers will be taking to the grid. We will see drivers like the German Mike Rockenfeller and Brit, Kyle Tilley, winners in some of the biggest races in IMSA Sports Cars. Regulars like the Mexican-born Daniel Suarez, who has made a great name for himself in the Cup Series with a win this year at Sonoma, and F1 participants such as Danii Kyvat. While there are many new faces, the name that stands out the most has to be the 2007 F1 World Champion, Kimmi Raikkonen. He will be making his NASCAR Cup Series debut for Trackhouse Racing and their newest Project91 entry. In all of my years of watching this sport, I have never seen a field as deep as this one. It will be awesome to see how these guys fare against the stars of NASCAR.

In the last two weeks, 2014 Cup Champion Kevin Harvick and his team have been on a roll. After a clutch victory two weeks ago at Michigan that assured their spot in the playoffs, Harvick and Crew Chief Rodney Childres dialed up another race-winning set-up last weekend at Richmond. All throughout the day, Harvick was consistently up front. He spent most of the middle stages of the race right behind Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. He didn’t seem to have the speed to match Logano or Hamlin as they both had double the amount of fastest laps. His fortune would turn around as cloud cover would come over the track and suddenly his car would handle much better. He would reel in Logano with 68 laps to go and never look back to claim his second victory in a row.

The wave of momentum that this team is on right now was not what anyone expected. Even some of NASCAR’s most expert analysts like Steve Letarte would go on record stating that he didn’t believe this team would have the speed to make the playoffs. This sudden burst has similar vibes to Harvick’s boss Tony Stewart when he won the title back in 2011. Going into the playoffs, the other 15 drivers will have a lot of work to do in trying to keep this team from their second championship.

We have reached the Kurt Busch update portion of this article. Over the last four weeks, the veteran driver has been recovering from a concussion he sustained at Pocono in a practice crash. It appears that there is hope that he will return this week for the race at Watkins Glen. We are likely to get an update on his status on Friday. Hopefully, he will be fit to drive this week and can make up for some of the points they have missed out on.

The Kyle Busch sweepstakes continues this week as rumors keep flooding in. According to reports, an additional Chevy team has now made an offer to Busch. Many have speculated on whom that team was, could it be the newly formed Kaulig Racing? Maybe RCR would be considered? With no end in sight, I have a feeling that we won’t know where Kyle is going till the end of the season. While he's still at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch was finally able to break through and get back into the top ten last week at Richmond.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Tyler Reddick. Ever since breaking the seal at Road America, Reddick has been on a roll when it comes to road courses. He backed up his win with another victory at the Indy Road Course. One key to this race will be the restarts, Tyler is easily one of the best drivers on restarts. I look for him to score his third career win come Sunday.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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