NASCAR REPORT

Quick Trip Folds of Honor 500 preview

Quick Trip Folds of Honor 500 preview
credit to https://outlawnation.com/nascar-atlanta/ for the photo

The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds Of Honor Quiktrip 500.

Since 2015, this track has played host to the second race of the season and after all the smoke cleared last week at Daytona, these drivers will now face a new challenge. As mentioned last week, the sport will be using a new rules package here at Atlanta which has caused much intrigue among spectators and drivers alike. There have been many questions regarding this such as, Will there be pack racing like we saw at Daytona? Will the cars be tremendously slower than they have been? How will it effect the drivers ability to pass? All of these questions should be answered come first practice on Friday when the drivers go out and get a feel for the new set-ups.

Last Week Denny Hamlin captured his second Daytona 500 victory. It was a sentimental win for him and his owner Joe Gibbs after the loss of Joe's son JD. Over the course of the team's history, JD was a major part of the team and its success. His career in racing began in 1998 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He found most of his success when he left racing to become the president of the team in 2007 as his dad went back to coaching the Redskins. Over the years following JD would help shape one of NASCAR's most prestigious teams, in fact Hamlin was quoted in a Racingnews.CO article by Shane Walters as saying "JD was instrumental in bringing me to JGR. He is essentially the reason I got hired." Not only was the win huge for Denny but for the whole company as well. When the checkered flag flew, Joe Gibbs Racing finished 1-2-3 with Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finishing second and third. At the end of the day, I am sure somewhere JD was looking down and smiling ear to ear.

Another big story-line was the dispute between Joey Logano and Michael McDowell. In the closing laps, Logano appeared to have a big run on the leader and needed drafting help from McDowell. After the race Joey assumed that because both drivers drove for Ford, McDowell and his Front Row Racing team would be willing to help him win but instead McDowell chose to draft with Kyle Busch instead. When confronted McDowell replied "My team doesn't pay me to push Joey Logano to a win." Overall, what McDowell was saying makes a lot of sense for a team that does nothing for Front Row Motorsports why should McDowell and his team do anything for Logano? Over time NASCAR drivers have become more vocal about things like this and while this isn't anything new, Joey was wrong to go and confront McDowell for something he would have probably done if roles were reversed. I wish McDowell luck this season in his situation because I think that he is a good race-car driver and I commend him on not caving to Logano and the Penske elites.

The favorite coming into this week's race at Atlanta has to be Kevin Harvick. He enters this race at 4/1 odds of winning on Sunday and he also holds the third highest average finishing position here. Despite last week's disappointing 26th place finish, this is a track where Harvick absolutely shines. Another good reason is that Harvick is the only driver who won in anything remotely close to the aero package they are running on Sunday, Harvick won last year's famous All-star race. He should be tough to beat come Sunday. It should be quite the race as no one really knows what we are going to see but overall it will be intriguing to watch.

(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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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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