NASCAR heads for the lone star state this weekend.

O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 preview

Kevin Harvick. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

NASCAR heads for the lone star state this weekend for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. This is another one of NASCAR's mile in a half tracks that we see so often around the Schedule. There will be a lot of changes coming that will make for a much different Texas Motor Speedway. For one we will be able to see what kind of racing this aero package will provide here and secondly it was announced earlier this week that there will be an added grip Compound around the track called VHT. According to experts, this will allow the drivers to use up more of the grooves on the race track. Usually, this same compound is used around Bristol and has been met with good results but what is important to note is that, Bristol is a short track as opposed to Texas Motor Speedway being a mile and a half. It should be fun to see what kind of results this added element will bring come sunday.

On Tuesday, NASCAR announced it's 2020 schedule and to say there was a massive overhaul would be the understatement of the year. Some of the changes include moving many races around including Daytona's Fourth of July race to the final race of the regular season and switching it with Indy, moving the season finale to Phoenix, making Pocono a doubleheader weekend, a two-week break for the Olympics and of course putting the Bristol Night race in the playoffs. Overall, while most of the moves were praised by fans the decision to move the Fourth of July race from Daytona to Indy was met with major backlash from people including myself. I believe that this is another attempt by NASCAR to fix what isn't broken. In 1959, NASCAR added the Fourth of July date for the first annual Firecracker 250. Five years later the race distance was expanded to four-hundred miles and the tradition has been going on ever since. To move one of the most famous races in the sports history is a huge mistake and they did it solely because they wanted to create drama. While there might be added storylines, going to Daytona and racing under the lights in August will never be the same as the rich tradition of racing there in July.

Going into this weekend, both Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske have dominated the season as they have been the only two teams to win this season but this weekend I believe that dominance will come to an end. This week, I think Kevin Harvick will break out of his funk and take his first win of 2019. It has been clear that Harvick hasn't quite been the same as he was in the past but I think this weekend will be different for him. As any fan could tell, Harvick hasn't quite dominated this track like he has others but he has really found something here. In the past few races, he has been able to able to lead over 28 percent of the laps run at this track and his worst finish here since then has been third. If he is to win this week, this could be the race that turns around the season for one of NASCAR's best drivers of this generation. Look for Harvick to be a contender.

Another driver to watch out for this week is Darrell Wallace Jr. While it is clear that 2019 has been a season to forget for Bubba, he is coming off his best finish last week at Martinsville of 17th so this team seems to be on the right track and it comes at the right time. Last season, Wallace finished eighth place here in one of his best results of his career. Another place he ran well at last season was Bristol, a track that ironically enough used the same grip compound we will be seeing this weekend at Texas, so will that make too much of a difference? I am not sure. Maybe not, but overall it is worth noting and could play a factor come Sunday. I look for Wallace to continue to build off his best finish last weekend at Martinsville and back it up with an even better result this weekend at Texas.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR heads back to Kansas

Alex Bowman/Facebook


NASCAR makes their second trip to Kansas this week for the Hollywood Casino 400. This is the final race in NASCAR's round of 12 as each driver looks to get closer to the semifinal round of eight. The last time the Cup series was here was back in May, Brad Keselowski pulled off the victory in one of the best races of 2019 as he held off a charge from Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer to claim his second win of the season. When the cup series came here in year's past, this was one of the more calmer races but ever since NASCAR introduced the new Aero Package, the field has been way closer. According to racing-reference, the spring race here had an average of 15 green flag passes per lap. While many fans have been extremely critical of NASCAR's new package, they simply cannot deny how much it has improved the racing on tracks like Kansas and Chicago. It will be interesting to see how much the circumstances of this being an elimination race will raise the urgency come Sunday.

Last week, the finish of Talladega was pushed back a day after rains suspended all on track activity on Sunday. After the conclusion of the first stage, the field was halted for over two hours until race officials decided to call it a day. During the rain delay, Chevrolet executive Jim Campbell called in an impromptu meeting with all of his drivers and demanded they all form a single-file line to help a Chevy win the race. According to driver Corey LaJoie, if drivers didn't comply, they would lose their company car and would lose time on the team's simulator which is a valuable tool for divers to get better at certain tracks. As you can tell, this was not received well by drivers and fans alike. One of the critics of this decision was 1999 Winston Cup Champion Dale Jarrett. When asked about it, he responded by saying "this has no place in NASCAR."And as a lifelong fan and owner of a Chevrolet, I must say that I agree with the critics on this. Working together on tracks like Talladega is one thing but to threaten drivers who don't comply by taking away time on the simulator is incredibly stupid. This is another example of how corporate this sport has become over the years and is simply not a good direction for the sport. As the race went on, it appeared as if the manufacturer was actually hurt by this as their top drivers Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson were all collected in an incident that ended their chances to win and quite possibly might cost Bowman a shot at the championship.

Needless to say, the race went on and featured one of the all-time greatest finishes in NASCAR History as Ryan Blaney was able to pass Ryan Newman in the final hundred yards and win by a margin of 00.7 tenths of a second making it the ninth closest finish in NASCAR History. Overall, this race had everything you would expect in a race at Talladega. It had multiple big crashes (including a flip by Brendan Gaughan), the lead changes and of course to top it all off, a photo finish. This great finish came at a good time for NASCAR considering the race at Dover a week earlier wasn't all that exciting.

Last week's race at Talladega was riddled with playoff implications as all twelve drivers were involved in some sort of incident including race winner Ryan Blaney. Overall, the drivers outside of the top eight are William Byron, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman. It is going to be extremely difficult for any one of these drivers to get it on points so it is more than likely that they will have to win to get in. When I look at these four drivers, I think all of them have a good shot to win as they have all been fast here.

This leads me to the driver I predict will win come Sunday and that driver is Alex Bowman. This track falls right into his wheel-house, he ran extremely well here as he led 63 laps and came extremely close to winning but had to settle for second place. This was tough for Bowman considering he had finished second three times in a row up to that point. This week, I think that Bowman gets his redemption for the spring race and he does it when he needs it the most to get into the round of 8. Look for Bowman to take the #88 Camaro to victory lane for his second career win.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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