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The NASCAR report: Could Vegas test session mean more for Cole Custer than we assume?

Is Cole Custer ready to make the jump to the Cup? Stewarthaasracing.com

This week at Las Vegas Motor speedway, The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series will hold a two-day test session.  While there will be a number of drivers there including Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Darrell Wallace Jr, the name that brings the most intrigue is NASCAR Xfinity driver Cole Custer. He will be behind the wheel of the number 32 Can-Am Ford owned by long time Crew Chief Frank Stoddard and former Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hillare. While it may seem like just another young driver getting a chance to get some extra laps in a cup car in preseason, this particular combination stands out more than the others. Could this paring mean that there is a new alliance forming between Go Fas racing and Stewart-Haas? Logistically, it makes sense seeing how Custer has been heavily touted as the next young driver to move up to Cup. (plus, his father Joe Custer is the executive Vice President for Stewart-Haas racing) If he is to move up to the Cup series this season more than likely he would be running a partial schedule until a car is available at Stewart-Haas (which is likely seeing how they signed Kurt Busch for only one year) Could this mean that Cole Custer could drive a few races in Cup this season and replace Kurt Busch in 2019? It all just seems to come together perfectly. While Go Fas racing already has two drivers lined up with Matt DiBenedetto and Joey Gase, if there is one thing I know about NASCAR it is that nothing is ever absolute and if a smaller team like this one can partner up with a powerhouse like Stewart-Haas, I think that they would show one of those two drivers the door in favor of Custer in a heartbeat. Overall, I think that it would be a shame to see another accomplished veteran lose his ride to another younger driver who brings more sponsorship dollars, but in the end, at least Custer has had success in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series. he has able to contend for wins each week. In fact he was one lap away from possibly making the championship four this year in the Xfinity series so it's a relief to see someone with a good bit of talent get to move up even if he does have connections within the Stewart-Haas racing team.  It will be interesting to watch all of these possible storylines play out here in the coming days as race fans gear up for the Daytona 500 in mid-February.

 

 

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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