NASCAR: Chase Elliott welcomes back fans with a win in the All-Star Race

As about 20,000 NASCAR fans descended upon Bristol for a historic night, Chase Elliott entertained them with a win in the All-Star Race.

NASCAR enacted all kinds of new features for its annual All-Star event. The race moved to Bristol Motor Speedway after over three decades at Charlotte. Door numbers on the competing machines were shifted backward. A “choose cone” setup allowed drivers to pick their restart lane. An “underglow” lighting system beneath each of the cars gave the race an aesthetic perhaps inspired by The Fast and the Furious.

But for all those changes, it was a familiar name that wound up taking the checkered flag.

Chase Elliott led the final 31 laps of the NASCAR All-Star Race, securing victory in the landmark exhibition event. He won each of the middle 35-lap stages after Ryan Blaney took home the first 55-lap portion before holding off Kyle Busch over the last 15-lap dash to set off the celebration. This the first time the event was held at a short track and only the second time in its 36-year history it was not held at NASCAR’s hub track of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“To me, this is one of those prestigious events that the Cup Series only has,” Elliott said afterward. “This is a special race on the schedule every year. There’s a lot of hype around it. The other thing about it is, you know, it’s something you have to race your way into. Luckily, we raced our way into this deal for life now. That means a lot.”

Ironically, the only other non-Charlotte All-Star event was won by Elliott’s father Bill in 1986 at Atlanta. The Elliotts, each driving a No. 9 car, are the second father-son duo to win the All-Star Race, joining the Earnhardts (Dale Sr. in 1987 and Dale Jr. in 2000).

Adding to the irony was the fact that Elliott, the back-to-back winner of the NASCAR Cup Series’ Most Popular Driver Award, won when NASCAR welcomed about 20,000 fans back to the stands. It is the most populous sporting event in America since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Elliott revealed that he snuck into the stands to take in the NASCAR All-Star Open qualifying event

“To me tonight felt like an event again.  I feel like we’ve been missing that piece for a couple of months. It just felt really good to get NASCAR back,” Elliott said. “NASCAR is built on the fans. Once the race starts, it’s hard to engage with them because you can’t hear them. Before a race, the atmosphere was energetic again. I felt like the vibe was back. I felt like that fire and intensity in me was back even more so than it has been, a piece that had been missing.  I think that’s driven by the people, the cars pulling in, the prerace parties, and everything that you see.”

Busch came home in the runner-up spot, while Kevin Harvick moved up to third after opting for fresher tires before the aforementioned 15-lap stage. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five, while Blaney finished sixth after running the last 85 laps on older tires.

The Cup Series’ regular season resumes this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway with Sunday afternoon’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Race Notes

  • With the win, Elliott earns automatic entry to the All-Star Race for as long as he races on a full-time basis. A Cup Series title is the other way to earn a permanent invitation. Drivers can also earn a spot by winning any points race from the prior season or the current campaign prior to the All-Star event.

 

  • Elliott’s win in the No. 9 Chevrolet is the All-Star-best ninth victory for Hendrick Motorsports. The team last won in 2013, the last of Jimmie Johnson’s record four victories in the No. 48. Johnson, set to retire from full-time racing after this season, finished 17th in his final All-Star Race.

 

  • Aric Almirola (9th), William Byron (12th), and Matt DiBenedetto (13th) each raced their way into the event by winning the three stages of the NASCAR All-Star Open. Clint Bowyer (15th) was also able to partake by winning the fan vote.

 

  • Tensions ran high in the open, as polesitter Michael McDowell got into the back of Bubba Wallace, sending the latter’s No. 43 Chevrolet into the wall. An incensed Wallace later left a piece of his wrecked car at McDowell’s hauler. McDowell’s No. 34 later made contact with the No. 37 of Ryan Preece, who spun out with the former’s teammate, John Hunter Nemechek.

 

  • New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara waved the green flag to open the main event. Kamara partook in 2015’s “Battle at Bristol”, when the track hosted a football game between Kamara’s University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies. Kamara scored a touchdown in Tennessee’s 45-24 victory.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants Go For Defensive End In 2021 Mock Draft

New York Giants

The New York Giants missed on getting the star defensive end they were looking for in the 2019 NFL Draft. That’s not to say that the team’s pick for the offensive line, Andrew Thomas, isn’t capable. But there was definitely a big appeal in Chase Young and the skills he brings to the table.

The Giants were mocked to take Young for much of the year once their losing record grew worse over the season. However, picking up late season wins threw Big Blue just out of the spot they needed to be in to take the Draft’s highest rated pass rusher.

According to the latest 2021 mock draft from Bleacher Report, the Giants are going to take another swing at improving the defensive line next year.

Who’s mocked to the Giants for 2021?

The mock draft has the Giants taking Gregory Rousseau from Miami with the number five overall pick. Assuming the Giants will pick at number five is something of a pessimistic prediction, but what would the Giants be getting for the pick if they did go with Rousseau?

As a redshirt freshman, Miami’s Gregory Rousseau finished second at the FBS level with 15.5 sacks (one behind Chase Young) and tied for seventh with 19.5 tackles for loss.

The 6’7″, 253-pound Rousseau is far from a finished product since he needs to improve upon his first-step explosion and working off the edge to pressure opposing quarterbacks. But his length and athleticism make him difficult to handle, especially for interior offensive linemen when the defensive end moves inside during certain sub-packages.

The reigning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year should continue to develop and mature, making him even more difficult to handle.

Sacks hasn’t been a friendly stat to the Giants in any of the recent past years. They tend to hang somewhere around the bottom of the league in the category and it’s regarded as one of the weakest points of the team. Leonard Williams was partly brought in to help with the problem but so far hasn’t added much in that regard, though his non-sack quarterback hits numbers are impressive.

The Giants could definitely gain something from adding another promising defensive player who was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

However, the mock draft is still far out meaning things could change between then and now, and just about all the fans will be hoping that the team isn’t picking as high as number five overall when the draft rolls around again next year.

New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole officially set to start on Opening Day

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

In what wasn’t much of a surprise, the New York Yankees have named Gerrit Cole their Opening Day starter. We all expected this from the instant that the team signed him, but it became official on Wednesday.

He’ll have the ball on Thursday, July 23rd when the Yankees face off against the Washington Nationals. Game time will be at 7pm from Washington D.C. with the game televised nationally on ESPN.

Cole is expected to go against Max Scherzer, the Nationals ace. Scherzer is arguably one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and has won three CY Young awards. He’s a sure Hall of Fame lock once eligible.

Friday will be the final tune-up for Cole before he takes the mound to open the shortened 2020 season. He will toss some innings in a intra-squad scrimmage before next Thursday’s start. Cole has looked good in scrimmages so far, and is looking to build off that on Friday. Pitching on Friday gives him an extra day of rest going into his first real start.

Although he won’t be pitching, the Yankees will be facing actual teams this weekend. They have scheduled scrimmages with the Mets on Saturday and Sunday, before visiting the Phillies on Monday en route to Washington, D.C. From there, the team will rest for a few days before opening the season.

The 2020 season will be like no other season before. Every game means so much, and you can’t afford to lose multiple games in a row. Hopefully, the team will remain healthy so they can make a push for their 28th World Series title.

Yankees receive fantastic news on the DJ LeMahieu return front

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees have been working extremely hard to find a supplement for DJ LeMahieu, who tested positive COVID-19 several weeks ago.

LeMahieu is an essential piece to the Yankees lineup and defensive efficiency. In 2019, he ranked fourth in MVP voting and was an All-Star. He hit .327 with 26 homers and 102 RBIs — both categories are career highs.

On Wednesday evening, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic stated that LeMahieu is expected to return this week. This gives the star second baseman time to log live at-bats and hopefully prepare for the regular season.

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With Opening Day just seven days away, the Yankees are still ironing out their active roster, which has expanded from 26 to 30 players. Deciding between speedster Tyler Wade and a more rounded player in Thairo Estrada has become a big question.

Estrada had two home runs during intrasquad play, and Wade has looked fantastic running the bases. However, Estrada is a far superior defender, and his offense has looked equally as good, making him the preferred option so far, in my opinion.

Nonetheless, if LeMahieu can start the season in form, the Yankees will not have to worry about supplementing the second base position. His bat will be a very nice addition to the top of the order, as well.

Early reports stated that he was asymptomatic, which meant he just had to test negative for the virus a specific number of times before he was allowed to re-join the team. I imagine he will remain careful and stay away from teammates for the time being until he can fully become acclimated with the new protocols.

The Yankees open on July 23 against the Washington Nationals, which they will need all of their star power if they wish to walk away with a victory. Starting pitcher and ace Gerrit Cole is expected to make his Yankee debut, and having his full support staff on offense would make his job a little bit easier. Not to mention the defensive efficiency DJ and right fielder Aaron Judge bring to the table.

New York Giants Heading Into 2020 With Versatile, Young Secondary

The New York Giants have built up their defensive secondary in the past few years. The Giants have invested numerous assets into their secondary, both through the NFL Draft and free agency. New York has added a lot of young, talented players to their defensive secondary. But the best part about all of these players is how extraordinarily versatile they are.

Maximum Versatility

The Giants’ secondary will be versatile in 2020. Head coach Joe Judge emphasized versatility in his introductory press conference and he has just the right group of guys in the secondary to fit that mold. James Bradberry, Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, Darnay Holmes, and Julian Love are all young, versatile talents that will help the defense succeed next season.

Xavier McKinney

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier McKinney played everywhere for Alabama — 323 snaps in the box, 227 in the slot, and 271 deep. Many Giants fans had hoped the team would select Isaiah Simmons fourth overall. Simmons was the ultra-versatile linebacker prospect that ended up with the Cardinals. The Giants took Andrew Thomas, passing on Simmons and his versatility, but they were able to land the next best thing in Xavier McKinney in round two.

Darnay Holmes

The Giants’ other exciting draft pick in the secondary, Darnay Holmes, is also a versatile player. Holmes spent his entire collegiate career playing outside cornerback. Entering the NFL this season, Holmes will likely make the transition to the inside and be the team’s nickel cornerback. However, Darnay could compete for the second outside cornerback position. Do not rule him out as an outside cornerback just yet- Darnay has the talents to play both positions.

James Bradberry IV

James Bradberry was another new addition for the Giants’ defense in 2020. Bradberry was a splash signing for New York in free agency and he will serve as the team’s primary cornerback on the outside. But James is another player that has the versatility to play both inside and outside. He rarely played slot cornerback in Carolina, but he was sufficient when lined up there. Another aspect of James’s versatility is his ability to shadow any receiver. Bradberry followed the opposing team’s top receiver in each game with the Panthers. He will likely play a similar role in the Giants’ defense.

21% of James Bradberry’s career coverage snaps have been while aligned against Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, or Mike Evans. James Bradberry also recorded 9 pass-breakups last year, tied for 16th in the NFL. Also 20th in NFL passer rating against (78.9) min of 550 snaps (PFF). Bradberry is also the oldest player in the Giants’ secondary at only 26-years-old.

Jabrill Peppers

Jabrill Peppers displayed his versatility in his first season with the Giants in 2019. Entering the NFL Draft in 2017, Peppers was considered a “Swiss Army Knife.” He truly did it all in college, lining up all over Michigan’s defense and making a significant impact on special teams. Peppers was mainly a box safety with the Giants last season, but he did line up in the slot and at free safety on numerous occasions.

Julian Love

In 2019, rookie defensive back Julian Love was a pleasant surprise on the Giants’ defense. The fourth-round pick was projected as a slot cornerback upon being drafted. However, he ended up converting to the safety position in the NFL. But Love still has his coverage skills from college and could compete for the Giants’ second outside cornerback position in 2020.

Julian Love could potentially line up all over the defense in 2020. He could line up as an outside cornerback, move back into the slot, and continue to play both free and strong safety. Adding Xavier McKinney into the mix with an already strong tandem in Love and Peppers could give the Giants one of the best safety groups in the NFL.

MSGN announces telecast schedule for Rangers Qualifying Round contest against Carolina

New York Rangers hockey is back and MSGN will carry all of the Blueshirts Qualifying Round games beginning Aug. 1 when their best of five series begins against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Coverage of the Rangers’ first game since late March will begin with pregame coverage at 11:30 a.m. The whole Rangers broadcast team will be live from the MSG Networks’ studios in New York City.

Play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen, the recipient of the 2016 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame, and analyst Joe Micheletti will call the game action remotely each night. John Giannone will host pregame, postgame and intermission coverage throughout the series from the network’s studio as well, alongside former Rangers goalie and Emmy Award-winning studio analyst Steve Valiquette.

The full schedule can be seen here

Game Date Opponent  Time Pregame Network
Exhibition Weds, July 29 Islanders 8:00pm ET 7:30 p.m. ET MSG
Game 1 Sat, Aug 1 @Carolina 12:00pm ET 11:30 a.m. ET MSG
Game 2 Mon, Aug 3 @Carolina 12:00pm ET 11:30 a.m. ET MSG
Game 3 Tues, Aug 4 Carolina 8:00pm ET 7:30 p.m. ET MSG
*Game 4 Thurs, Aug 6 Carolina TBD TBD MSG
*Game 5 Sat, Aug 8 @Carolina TBD TBD MSG

The Rangers will be the home team for games 3 and game 4 if it’s necessary.  The Qualifying Round will take place from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, home of the Maple Leafs.

For those fans who can’t wait until August to see the Blueshirts hit the ice, MSGN will also televise the team’s exhibition game against the rival New York Islanders on July 29 at 8:00 p.m. with a 7:30 p.m. pregame show.

Two New Preview Shows

In anticipation of the return of hockey, MSG Networks will be airing two new Rangers preview shows on Tuesday, July 28th and Thursday, July 30th, featuring interviews with Coach Quinn and various Rangers players. During each show, Rangers broadcasters Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti, John Giannone, and Steve Valiquette will break down the upcoming qualifying matchup and provide fans with the latest news and info on the team before they get set to return to the ice.

Fireside Giants Ep 31: Comparing New York players to Game of Thrones characters, DeAndre Baker, more!

New York Giants, Fireside Giants

In the latest episode of Fireside Giants – a New York Giants podcast:

Alex and Anthony host Willy Receipts from Twitter to compare players to Game of Thrones characters. This is an extremely interesting and exciting episode, as some of the craziest correlations ever imagined are proposed.

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If you’re looking for absolute entertainment, this is absolutely a place you can find it. If you love characters like Arya Stark, Jon Snow, and so many more, you will find yourself comparing players as well.

We also take a look at DeAndre Baker, and the latest news to hit the media. Reports indicating he paid off witnesses has bubbled to the surface, with suspected hard proof. While his lawyers indicate his innocence, nothing is cemented just yet.

We also take a look at Leonard Williams and how this move is a major argument for Dave Gettleman‘s tenure with the Giants. In 2019, Williams was traded from the Jets to the Giants for a third and fifth-round pick. In eight games, he posted 0.5 sacks, 26 combined tackles, two tackles for loss, and 11 quarterback hits. His underwhelming production has been a consistent concern the past few seasons, but he has hidden efficiency that the Giants seem to value.

With the franchise tag deadline passing on Wednesday, Williams is locked into a $16.1 million deal in 2020. However, he will be a free agent next off-season and the Giants will have to make a decision on his future. Do they extend him on a multi-year deal or let him walk?

Ultimately, his future with the team relies on his performance in 2020. Historically, we shouldn’t expect a Pro Bowl level performance, as he has only earned the accolade once in five years. In a contract year, though, he could finally untap his potential and show us why Gettleman spent a valuable draft pick on his services.

WATCH: Yankees’ Aaron Judge returns to lineup after injury and smashes monster homer immediately

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge has been nursing a stiff neck for the past few days, receiving treatment to help soothe his pain. Manager Aaron Boone stated yesterday that the team was being cautious with how they went about his injury.

“He is getting worked on right now, I’d say there is a chance, but we haven’t made that call yet.”

“Yes, when he came in today, there is improvement. Again, he’s getting worked on right now, so will have a good feel for whether he is in or out of the intrasquad here in a little bit.”

However, Judge returned to the lineup on Wednesday evening, smashing a home run immediately to announce his return.

The 2017 Rookie of the Year played in just 102 games last season, posting a .272 batting average with 27 homers and 55 RBIs. He missed a ton of time during spring training 1.0 and was expected to miss at least half the year with a stress fracture in a rib. Luckily, that injury has been rehabilitated and there’s no longer a problem.

New York Giants legend Osi Umenyiora to pass on vintage pass rush moves to Oshane Ximines

New York Giants, Oshane Ximines, Osi Umenyiora

If you are a New York Giants fan, you remember Osi Umenyiora and his tantalizing speed off the edge. Umenyiora played with the Giants during both their Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011. Over nine years with Big Blue, he posted 75 sacks, 32 forced fumbles, 87 quarterback hits, and 70 tackles for a loss.

His size is somewhat comparable to Oshane Ximines, who the Giants drafted in the third round last year out of Old Dominion. Going into his second season, the potential is there for Ximines to explode onto the scene and become one of the Giants’ top pass rushers.

Seeing the similarities between Ximines and Umemyiora, notably their frame and similar style of play, I took to Twitter to try and connect them.

Luckily, the impossible happened. Oshane re-tweeted my plea, and Umenyiora answered the call, stating that the two would work together and hopefully transfer some of his vintage pass rush moves over to the young player.

Ximines finished his rookie season in 2019 with 4.5 sacks, 25 combined tackles, five tackles for the loss, and nine quarterback hits over 45% of defensive snaps.

The Old Dominion product has an impressive number of pass rush moves to display for the Giants. His arm chops, bull rush, and solid speed are all influential factors in his game. If he can learn how to explode off the edge as Osi did in his glory days, the Giants might be looking at their next big pass rusher.

However, he will have competition to unseat. The Giants still have Kyler Fackrell, who signed a one-year deal this off-season and potentially Markus Golden. Golden has a few more days to find a multi-year deal elsewhere, or he will likely sign a one-year contract with the Giants on the free-agent tender. This will pay him $4.125 million for the 2020 season.

With two experienced pass rushers on the roster, Ximines will have to perform during preseason and training camp to earn starting reps. Ideally, he will have over 60% of defensive snaps this upcoming season, giving us a good sample size going into 2021.

Yankees’ Chad Green adds secret weapon to his pitching arsenal

New York Yankees, Chad Green

New York Yankees reliever Chad Green has been working on a new breaking pitch with the help of pitching coach Matt Blake. Green has always been able to get batters out with his fastball but has never had a really good number two pitch. 

He has been working hard to improve his arsenal and his ability to get hitters out. When talking about his curveball, he said, “right now, it feels good.” “I am definitely way more comfortable than when I first started throwing it,” Green said. He also talked about why he decided to develop a new pitch. Green said that he “tends to be one dimensional at times.” He said it will help him so that he “won’t have to grind through every inning.” If Green can get comfortable with this pitch, he will be even better than before.

Chad Green has been very vital for the Yankees in the bullpen and came up big in many close games. He also stepped up and became unstoppable when the Yankees used him as an opener. With this new pitch, he will be able to blow hitters away with the fastball and fool them with the curveball. Green doesn’t have another dominant pitch in his arsenal. This could improve his game a lot.

Here were Green’s stats from last season: 54 G, 15 GS, 69.0 IP, 5-5, 4.17 ERA, 98 SO, SO/9 12.8, BB/9 2.5. He started the season off slow but picked it up at the end. 

Chad Green is a very versatile player that can start and finish a game. He can also stay in a game for 2-3 innings and be ready to pitch the next day. He’s a player that the Yankees trust and look to in big-time situations. 

What does this mean for the Yankees?

The Yankees already have one of if not the best bullpen in the league. With a shortened season, you could see the Yanks bullpen even more dominant than they were last year. That is hard to do. Look for Chad Green’s ERA and SO/9 to improve a lot with the new addition of the curveball.