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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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