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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 loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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