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).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(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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