NASCAR heads for Martinsville for the first short track race of 2019.

NASCAR STP 400 preview

Kylebusch.com

This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the track they call the "paperclip" in Martinsville Virginia for their annual STP 500. Overall, the track is 0.526 miles around with twelve degrees of banking in all four of its corners. It is easily the shortest and most narrow track on the circuit, this will make it extremely difficult for drivers to pass without moving someone out of the way. Not only is the racing unique on the track but off it as well as the winner is awarded with a grandfather clock as their trophy. Look for there to be lots of action all around the track.

Last week, Kyle Busch dominated the Auto Club 400 and went on to capture his 53rd NASCAR Cup series victory. There was much controversy about this victory as it was his 200th victory across all three of NASCAR's divisions. As many fans know, the only other driver to reach 200 wins was the king, Richard Petty. Unlike Kyle Busch, Richard obtained all of his victories in the Cup series leading most to believe that his body of work was superior to Busch's body of work.

While yes, what Richard Petty did was unprecedented and will never be replicated but there are multiple factors to take into account. One is the competition Petty faced. For instance, in Petty's masterful 27 win season in 1967 many of his fiercest competitors like David Pearson did not run the full 49-race schedule, as opposed to Kyle Busch and how he faces the same field we see every week. That year, Pearson ran only 22 races while Petty ran all but one.

Another factor is the money that Petty and his team had back then as opposed to everyone else. Back before there were major sponsors like we see today, many drivers had to provide the money to race for themselves and Petty and his team were one of the first drivers to gain a major sponsor in STP. For drivers like Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley, they didn't have the same opportunities and resources they did at Petty Enterprises so it was hard for those type of drivers to keep up. Overall, if you ask anyone that followed the sport back then I think they would tell you that both Wendell Scott and Elmo Langley were just as talented as Petty but just didn't have the equipment he did.

This is where it differs with Kyle Busch, as most know in today's NASCAR these cars are much more closer than they were back then. At the end of the day while these cars may not be as difficult to drive as they were back in 1967, there is still a massive amount of skill that goes into driving now and when it is all said and done there is just no comparison between what both drivers have accomplished. When it is all said and done as fans we should accept the greatness that both Richard Petty and Kyle Busch have accomplished in their careers.

One of the drivers that you should look out for this week again is Martin Truex Jr. I am staying on this bandwagon like last week because I truly believe that he is due for a victory. Surprisingly, over the course of his 16-year career Truex has yet to win at a short track like Martinsville or Bristol. He has been close so many times like last year in the second race here in October when he was rooted out of the way by Joey Logano on the final lap who went on to win the race. This week, I think that he breaks out and finally gets that elusive grandfather clock and wins it come sunday.

(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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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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