THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: South Point 400 preview, predictions

Keep an eye on Joey Logano this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The Round of 12 begins this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the South Point 400. This track is a 1.5 mile oval with 12-20 degrees of banking. Beginning back in 2018, a second Vegas race was added to the playoffs. This will be a vastly different race than what we saw in the spring, with the race being at night as opposed to its usual mid-afternoon start-time. There will be plenty of strategy in this race with the stages ending at lap 80, 160, and 267 so there is a good chance we see drivers try and split them in half depending on where the cautions fall. It should be interesting to see what type of race we see come Sunday.

Last week was one of the most dramatic races of the season as Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott all battled for the victory. The race was not without controversy though after Elliott and Harvick made contact in the later stages battling for the lead. Because of this, Elliot's tire went down and it cost him a shot at the victory. This would be Larson's sixth victory of the season and his ticket to the next round. When the checkered flag flew, both Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott had a very heated discussion regarding what took place on the track. This sent the NASCAR world into a frenzy, but it appeared that both drivers were able to talk it out in the end and this won't carry over into the rest of the playoffs.

With the next round of the playoffs beginning, many would consider this the wild-card. It features both Talladega and the Charlotte Roval, two tracks that have been known to produce some of the most dramatic finishes over the past couple of years. Because of this, it will be extra important for the field of 12 to get a good result here. Kevin Harvick has to be one of those drivers. As I mentioned earlier, he's been in the headlines lately and after everything that has gone on at Bristol, going to Las Vegas couldn't come soon enough. He's found plenty of success here as he's scored two victories, seven top fives, and 12 top tens at this track. The success has faded a little bit though as he finished 20th here in the spring. It's a much different race now. He will roll-off 5th.

The other driver in the Round of 12 in need of a momentum boost is Brad Keselowski. As it's well known that Brad has one foot out the door at Penske Racing, most can tell his impending exodus has been affecting their results. While he and his team have been decent, his results haven't exactly shown him as a championship contender. Luckily, last week at Bristol, he was extremely fast and he is also going to a track he has been good at in the past. He rolls off 8th, look for him to be a contender for a top five.

The driver that I have winning this week is Joey Logano. It has been kind of an under-the-radar type of playoffs for the 2018 champion, in the opening round he scored a top-ten at Darlington, a top-five at Richmond, and finished a respectable 11th at Bristol. There have been times this season where Logano has had a lot of speed. But it seems like he hasn't been the fastest car as he only has one victory this season But this week he is going to a track where he has a lot of great experience. Overall, among all active drivers, he has the highest average finish, two victories and the second-most laps led behind Kevin Harvick. The one thing that may hurt him has been his team's results with the 550 hp package, but luckily, he will benefit greatly from his ninth place starting spot. Look for Logano to punch his ticket to the round of eight with a victory.

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Jeremy Pena could have some big shoes to fill. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images.

MLB and the MLBPA are embroiled in yet another labor dispute. The owners and players have both dug in their heels and refuse to budge. No end is in site for the lockout as Spring Training is drawing more and more near each passing day. So what does that mean for our 2022 Astros' season?

One sigh of relief came when Justin Verlander signed his new deal. Two years for $50 million dollars isn't bad at all. Factor in he's closer to my age than my son (coming off Tommy John surgery), and some may worry. Not me. He's the closest thing to Tom Brady MLB has seen since Nolan Ryan. Jim Crane and James Click did a great job bringing him back. His spot as the ace with the rest of the staff they have should help shore up the bullpen if one or two starters can make that transition. I know I said I didn't want him back a few months ago, but time has passed, and wounds have been healed.

When it comes to Carlos Correa, I'm growing more and more comfortable with the thought that he may not be back. I talked about his potential replacement months ago. Maybe the reason being is that the club loves Jeremy Peña at that same position, and Pedro Leon could also factor in. Plus, Peña is tearing the cover off the ball in the winter leagues.

At 24 years old, turning 25 in September, he'll be under team control for the foreseeable future. That truly depends on the new labor agreement. So does Correa's new contract. His contract will be largely based on the parameters set in the new labor agreement, since he didn't sign before the lockout took place. And now we know that contact will be negotiated by Correa's new agent, Scott Boras.

I'm all for the doom and gloom when it comes to an MLB labor issue because they've historically screwed over fans. The most notable and egregious was the '94 World Series being canceled. However, there's way too much money at stake right now. More money than ever to be exact. That said, it's precisely why there's a dispute. That, and the fact that the owners have always gotten over on fans and players, and the players are poised to get their just due.

When the season starts, the Astros should be contenders yet again. Don't look for them to come out the gate firing on all cylinders as this team may look a bit different. Guys may not be fully ready after a lockout and there will be some roster turnover. The bulk of the core will be here, ready, and healthy. Whether Correa is a part of that group remains to be seen. Am I concerned? Hell no! This team has enough to fill that void at least partially and will have either guy under team control for a while. Think about this upcoming season as the time you fixed up your older car. New tires, headlights restored, rims polished, inside made over, and a fresh coat of paint after the transmission rebuild. It still has over 150,000 miles on it, but you wouldn't trade it in for anything because it still runs well and has sentimental value. You know one day it'll give out and need to be put out to pasture, but you're holding on and riding until the wheels fall off. Enjoy Astro fans, because the ride will be over one day. Hopefully much later than sooner.

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