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).
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.