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Tyler Reddick ‘happy’ with early Xfinity success, Kansas Cup performance

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Things are going well for Tyler Reddick in 2019.

While he hasn’t been flashy about it, the Richard Childress Racing driver leads the Xfinity Series standings almost a third of the way through in his attempt to defend his series championship.

The first 10 races have been a stark contrast to his 2018 campaign, which ended in the championship. Reddick has a series-leading eight top fives, two more than Christopher Bell. Last year, when Reddick had just seven top fives all season, he didn’t earn his second until race No. 10 at Dover.

The only similarity to last year is his lone win has come at a superspeedway (Talladega).

“I wouldn’t say I expected it to be quite as smooth sailing as it has been,” Reddick told NBC Sports while in Philadelphia for a Xfinity Series promotion. “But I knew we had the capability of being as fast as we have been. For us to have the two bad races I would say, possibly three if you count Richmond, and still be running like we are and be where we are in points and all those things. It’s been pretty crazy honestly.

“I wish we had a win or two more along the way. To have a win, to be locked in and leading the points overall and have an average finish of (4.7) right now is pretty good so far for the first bit of the year. I’m happy.”

Reddick didn’t stay still during the first of two straight off weeks for the Xfinity Series.

He made his second career Cup Series start last weekend at Kansas Speedway, again driving RCR’s No. 31 Chevrolet.

After qualifying 30th in a car set up for the race, Reddick started 21st because many of the 11 cars that failed inspection and lost their starting spot were in front of him.

“The leaders could get away from us pretty early and we wouldn’t be able to match their lap times until about 25 laps into a run,” Reddick said. “So it kind of put us in a bad spot there. Throughout the race at times we could stay in the top 15, kind of linger right there.”

The team got a boost when a caution came out in the middle of green flag stops on Lap 219, leaving Reddick and six other drivers on the lead lap.

That allowed Reddick to restart in the top 10, where he’d stay the remainder of the race, running as high as the top five before settling for ninth.

“I think we still could have had a shot at running top 10 without that (caution),” Reddick said. “To ultimately get in the spot where we were and almost get to third place, fourth place after one of those restarts. It was a really good feeling. I was ashamed the next restart I threw it all away, just had a mistake and lost it. To still finish ninth after the issues we had on the restart and to bounce back from that, that was really cool.”

Reddick will return to Kansas in the Xfinity Series in October during the playoffs. But due to the Cup Series rules package, Reddick says nothing he experienced Saturday will translate back to his full-time ride.

“They couldn’t be any more different right now than they are at this moment,” Reddick said. “Everything that you know and teach yourself in Xfinity you pretty much have to throw it all away and disregard it when you step into a Cup car.

Reddick added, “It’s quite unreal to be honest with you how much different they are.”

The next three Xfinity races see the series visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

After his stellar start, Reddick isn’t too enthusiastic about the next stretch.

“Those are all really bad tracks for me,” Reddick said. “I’ve never ran Pocono with what the Xfinity cars are now. We ran the drag duct race there (in 2018 and finished ninth). My first time there at Michigan was with Chip Ganassi Racing (in 2017 and finished 13th). We had good speed but I just wasn’t quite comfortable in race cars yet, especially at a 2-mile race track. …

“Charlotte’s a place I’ve had a lot of rough luck at (finishes of 10th and 23rd). I don’t even think of Charlotte as a mile-and-a-half, but it is. Hopefully, I was hearing it was going to be 94 degrees. I’m hoping it’s really, really hot and really, really slick. It might work out OK for us. So I’d say Charlotte is the one I’m looking to the most.”

Through 10 races Reddick’s main competition in defending his title would appear to be Bell and Cole Custer, who have three wins and two wins respectively.

But Reddick is keeping his head up when it comes to one other driver.

“Definitely as we get into the summer stretch you can’t forget about Justin Allgaier,” Reddick cautioned. “He’ll run really good at the short tracks. He’ll be really good at the road courses. You can’t ever forget about him.”

Allgaier has four top fives this season and is coming off a runner-up finish at Dover and a third-place finish two races before that at Richmond.

“Trying to forget about him is exactly when we’re going to get in trouble and that’s when he’s going to pop his head back into the race and make himself known. He’s had some really bad luck but you definitely can’t rule him out.”

NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider, Danielle Trotta, Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte will discuss multiple auto racing disciplines, including NASCAR and IndyCar.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. throws perfect strike for Red Sox

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With the Boston Red Sox nearly 10 games behind their No. 1 rivals, the American League East-leading New York Yankees, they could use some additional pitching help.

A good southpaw would be a big help.

They got some help on Wednesday – for one pitch at least, that is – as Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw out the first pitch prior to the game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Scouts likely had a few raised eyebrows when Stenhouse threw a perfect strike.

 

I’ve thrown out first pitches at some minor league games, but Fenway Park puts it at a whole ‘nother level,” Stenhouse told NESN.com.

But Stenhouse, wearing a No. 17 jersey, delivered when it was his turn atop the mound. In a sense, it was a home game for Stenhouse, as Red Sox owner John Henry is a part-owner of Roush Fenway Racing.

Stenhouse and teammate Ryan Newman, who was also in uniform for the game, were in Boston on their way to this weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stenhouse is currently 19th in the standings and with seven races left to make the playoffs, he knows how significant this weekend will be for him.

It’s very important,” Stenhouse told NESN. “New Hampshire could be one of those turning points. We’re 19th in points and need to get to 16th. Or we could win and just lock ourselves in that way, too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a fast enough car and play the right strategy to put ourselves in a position to win. These next few races are definitely critical to us to make sure we do our part. We’ll need somebody else to falter a little bit, but we’re going to go out and do our job and see how things play out.”

And if Stenhouse doesn’t make the playoffs, he might want to keep that pitching arm warm and loose, just in case the Red Sox really need him.

 

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Ryan Vargas set for Xfinity debut at Iowa Speedway

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Ryan Vargas, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class and 2019 Drive for Diversity program, is set to make his Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Iowa Speedway.

JD Motorsports announced Wednesday Vargas will drive its No. 15 Chevrolet in the July 27 U.S. Cellular 250, which will air on NBCSN.

Vargas, 18, competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last year for Rev Racing. Vargas was let go by Rev Racing in December and has spent this season racing late models and competing for the Irwindale Speedway track championship.

The race at Iowa will mark Vargas’ national NASCAR series debut. Vargas said making his Xfinity debut at Iowa “just makes sense” given his seventh-place finish there last year in the K&N Series.

“Last year, I felt that I was able to run my best race all year at the speedway, and to have the chance to drive for a well-respected team owner in Johnny Davis really adds to the excitement heading into the weekend,” Vargas said in a press release. “I think if we can keep all the fenders on my No. 15 Chevrolet and run as many laps as possible, the weekend will be a success. At this point in my career, I want to learn as much as I can so I can keep moving up the NASCAR ladder, so I am not necessarily worried about what the results show.”

Vargas will be sponsored by Cranio Care Bears, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with a child’s brain and skull growth. Vargas underwent surgery when he was 11 months old to correct issues from it.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help bring awareness to this great charity in Cranio Care Bears through the sport that I love so much,” Vargas said. “I know that I will have a lot of little supporters cheering me on that look up to me as a role model in the Cranio community, and I want to show them that anything is possible, even with the condition.”

 

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Updated entry lists for NASCAR at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until July 27 at Pocono Raceway.

Here are the entry lists for the Cup and Xfinity races at New Hampshire:

Cup – Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 37 cars entered.

Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Andy Seuss is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford and will make his Cup debut. Austin Theriault will also make his Cup debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity — Roxor 200 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 cars entered.

Cup regular Paul Menard will be driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Ryan Truex will be making his third Xfinity start of the season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews will make his third Xfinity start of 2019 in the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton makes his third start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Kaz Grala is entered in his fourth race of the year in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

CJ McLaughlin will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.