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

NASCAR STP 400 preview

Kyle Busch
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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Astros defeat the Rangers, 9-2. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

Kyle Tucker doubled twice and had three RBIs and Jose Altuve added three hits and drove in two runs as the Houston Astros used a seven-run seventh inning to break a tie and coast to a 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

The Astros snapped a four-game skid and bounced back after allowing the Rangers to score their season high in a 12-8 win in the series opener.

Altuve said he hopes this game can help get the Astros on a roll after their early struggles.

“We as a team are very confident... this is the kind of team we are, we have done it before,” Altuve said. “I don't see why we can't start doing it again.”

It was tied at 2 and the bases were loaded with one out in the seventh when pinch-hitter Victor Caratini’s RBI single to right field off José Ureña (0-1) put the Astros on top.

Altuve followed with a double to the corner of left field to send two more home and push the lead to 5-2. Austin Pruitt took over and intentionally walked Yordan Alvarez before Tucker doubled to center field to score two more.

Houston made it 9-2 when Alvarez scored on a sacrifice fly by Yainer Diaz.

“That was great,” manager Joe Espada said. “That’s the offense that I’m used to seeing. When we get pitchers against the ropes, we've got to put them away and that’s exactly what we did today.”

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut and pitched six scoreless innings Sunday, gave the Astros another solid start Saturday. He gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down to pitch five scoreless frames. He allowed five singles with three walks and five strikeouts.

It was a much-needed performance after Houston’s starters had allowed 31 earned runs with a 20.93 ERA across 13 1/3 innings in the last five games.

“It started with Blanco,” Espada said. “He set the stage and then our offense got some big hits.”

Texas starter Andrew Heaney yielded four hits and two runs while walking four in 3 2/3 innings.

“I’m fighting myself a little bit right now, mechanically, mentally, just having a hard time getting some traction, getting going,” he said. "So I’m just going to keep working.”

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Bryan Abreu (1-1) struck out Evan Carter to escape the jam before Houston took the lead in the bottom of the inning.

Rookie Wyatt Langford had two hits and an RBI for Texas and Adolis García added two hits.

Houston’s José Abreu, who is hitting just .122 this season, had two hits with a double for his first multi-hit game this season and his first extra base hit of the year.

Blanco walked Evan Carter and García with two outs in the first before giving up his first run of the season on an RBI single by Josh Smith. Langford followed with a run-scoring single to push the lead to 2-0.

Abreu opened the fourth with a double and moved to third on a groundout by Jake Meyers before scoring on a groundout by Mauricio Dubón to cut the lead to 2-1.

Heaney then hit Altuve and Alvarez with pitches and was lifted for Jacob Latz. Tucker lined a double into center field to score Altuve and tie it at 2-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: LHP Brock Burke was placed on the 15-day injured list Saturday after breaking his right hand punching a wall after a poor outing Friday night. … Pruitt had his contract selected from Triple-A Round Rock to take his spot on the roster. … INF Justin Foscue (left oblique strain) was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day list.

Astros: 3B Alex Bregman missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms. … RHP Shawn Dubin (forearm strain) was reinstated from the 15-day injured list Saturday to take the spot of RHP Joel Kuhnel, who was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land.

UP NEXT

Texas RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 1.45 ERA) opposes RHP Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.10) in the series finale Sunday.

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