Other Sports

NASCAR Countdown: 3 Rookies Moving Up

usatsi_13676380.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR Countdown: 3 Rookies Moving Up

NBC Sports Washington is counting down big NASCAR moments leading up to the Daytona 500. Be sure to check out our other coverage below.

This year's rookie class is about as stacked as ever, with the “Big Three” who dominated the Xfinity Series last season all moving up to the Cup Series. All driving for a premier organization (or aligned with them), the battle for the Rookie of the Year award is set to be a good one.

3. Cole Custer, No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing

Coming off a series-high seven wins en route to a second-place finish in the championship standings last season, Cole Custer, for most of the season, may as well have been considered the Xfinity championship favorite. But Tyler Reddick + Homestead = dominance.

Driving for SHR means Custer will be competitive right off the bat in 2020. The team he’s inheriting finished 17th in the standings last season, plus he’s bringing Mike Shiplett, his crew chief from Xfinity, up with him. A playoff berth is a strong possibility for Custer. Heck, he has the best shot of the “Big Three” to make an appearance, given his equipment.

2. Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing

Reddick may be the most under-hyped, back-to-back and reigning Xfinity Series champion of all-time...because he’s the only one and well, his situation is the worst of the “Big Three.”

Richard Childress Racing has a top-notch Xfinity Series program--there’s no debating that. Reddick won the championship and six total races last season, and was the popular pick to win the title at season’s end. But there’s also no debating that RCR’s Cup program is a C-tier one.

However, there has been an overhaul of personnel at the company this off-season, much in part due to Richard Childress’ obsession (in the best way possible) with Reddick. He’s compared him on the record to Cale Yarborough and has gone out of his way to keep him in the fold. Although his grandson Austin Dillon is the present face of the team, Reddick is the future.

1. Christopher Bell, No. 95 Toyota for Leavine-Family Racing

The most highly-touted in recent memory and most invested in prospect in NASCAR history, Bell needed to move up to Cup, but Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t have enough room. What were they supposed to do: release Kyle Busch (reigning champion), Denny Hamlin (hitting his peak and brings sponsorship), Martin Truex Jr. (champion and led the series in wins in 2019) or Erik Jones (won Southern 500, qualified for the playoffs last season)?

You see Gibbs’ dilemma. So why not lend him to a satellite team in Leavine-Family Racing, have Toyota essentially give LFR Gibbs prepared cars for Bell to drive and wait until a spot opens up. Jones was signed to a one-year deal, essentially being told to prove he’s better than Bell, and things will be reevaluated at or near the end of 2020.

Until then, Bell will do the best with what he’s got, and Gibbs will hope for some clarity.

MORE NASCAR NEWS:

The Rock's cheat day, what the Watt brothers are up to, Marcus Stroman get his reps in

The Rock's cheat day, what the Watt brothers are up to, Marcus Stroman get his reps in

First up in Saturday's round-up of the best sports moments on the internet, everyone is trying to stick to as normal of a routine as they can while at home. Quarantine wasn’t going to keep Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” away from his “cheat day”. Have you ever seen french toast this big in your life? 


Next up, the Watt brothers have been staying in shape working out together and they even have a football field coming soon. Check out JJ Watt painting the lines. He says he has a new respect for groundskeepers now. The stage is set for the Watt brothers!


Finally, no bullpen, no problem! Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman sets up a makeshift bullpen on his boat dock and it even has a mound. Now that is a beautiful place to get your reps in! 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE IN THE LOOP:

Eyes of the tennis world would turn to the Citi Open if hosted this year

citi_open_stadium_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Eyes of the tennis world would turn to the Citi Open if hosted this year

With the sports world on pause due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the Citi Open could signal the start of a welcomed new day if it goes on as currently still scheduled later this year. 

This week the ITF, ATP and WTA announced the suspension of all tournaments worldwide through July 13. The suspension includes the iconic Wimbledon Championships in England for the first time since World War II. Without it, players will go at minimum four months in-between competitive tournaments. 

That is where the Citi Open could have more of a mark on the tennis world than usual, assuming the suspension is not extended. The tournament in Washington D.C. would be the first combined event on the tour since play resumed. It would the second ATP 500-level event and the fifth International-level tournament for the WTA.

“It just became an incredible set of circumstances for us to have an unprecedented player field and media, global media attention on us,” managing owner of the Citi Open Mark Ein told NBC Sports Washington. “Our top priority is always going to be protecting people’s health and that is going to be the first objective, but if we can do that and have the event it will be extraordinary.”

Players across the world would be vying for a spot in the tournament to get back in action. It would be one of the prime tournaments for preparation in the Rogers Cup and subsequent U.S. Open.

“The eyes of the tennis world and the sports world, more broadly, would be on Washington and the Citi Open," Ein said. "Virtually every single player is going to want to and need to play. They will have been out of competition for five months, made no prize money, got no ranking points. And I think the entire world would flock here for our event because it would be the first big event.”

Unlike Wimbledon and the other majors, the week-long Citi Open does not require as much long-term event planning. Major decisions on the event won’t have to be made until the beginning of June. Ein notes that they could even push back some of those deadlines later given the circumstances. 

Obviously, the uncertainly makes planning a large event a difficult task. The tournament organizing team though is still hard at work, operating as if the tournament will still be held. 

Players are in the same boat. Since the announcement of the suspension of the tours, players have been in contact with the Citi Open on entry into the field. Already the tournament is known for boasting an incredible crop of players, especially on the men’s side. Last year six top-15 players entered the men’s singles event. On the women’s side, former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens is a regular, while Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff have also played at Rock Creek Park. 

“Everyone is waiting a little bit longer to see,” Ein said. “But it is very clear that everyone’s going to come here if we’re on.”

But as has been clear in recent weeks, so much can change from now until July 13 and before the start of the tournament on August 1. Ein and the Citi Open, as of now, are optimistic at the opportunity that has presented themselves for the event but reaffirmed that the health and safety of the players and fans are their top priority.

The ultimate decision on whether to have the event would be in conjunction with the ATP, WTA and the city.

“We’ve talked about different ways of modifying the event to account for the extraordinary times we’re living in and we would be flexible to accommodate certain objectives if needed," Ein said. "But, it’s too early to have to think about what those options may be.”