Reddick, Custer, Bell excited for Cup Series rookie battle

Terrin Waack

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Names were made this season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

The checkered flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend marked the end of three drivers’ full-time run in Xfinity. Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell all earned Cup Series rides for the 2020 season. It’s now time to move up — and on.

“Honestly, it was such an emotional week going into Homestead because I’m very reluctant to change,” Bell said. “I like my routine, and it was tough. I just kind of savored every moment of my last time sitting in a Xfinity car, my last time going to the races, my last time flying with this group of people.”

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Friday night, the drivers who became known as the Big 3 were honored during the 2019 NASCAR Awards in the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. Reddick celebrated his second championship in a row, while Custer finished second and Bell placed third. Justin Allgaier — the fourth Championship 4 contender — was also recognized.

To quickly recap the Xfinity-to-Cup changes: Reddick is staying with Richard Childress Racing and exchanging his No. 2 Chevrolet for the No. 8 Chevrolet. Meanwhile, Custer is swapping out his No. 00 Ford for a No. 41 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing. Bell is then moving from his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota.

“I guess I really didn’t realize until tonight what it’s really going to be like,” Custer said. “I’ve been in the Xfinity Series for a while now, and it’s going to be really sad leaving, for sure. I mean, it’s kind of what I’ve been used to the last few year, but I’m looking forward to next year — what I’m going to learn and what I need to do better.”

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Excitement seemed to be the overall theme among the three. That, and being ready.

Custer competed in the Xfinity Series for three full seasons, compiling nine wins. His best season finish is second — twice. Bell and Reddick both have two full years under their belts. Reddick has the two titles and nine wins to his name. Bell comes in at 16 wins, with third being his best final rank.

When it comes to the Cup Series, Custer enters with three starts, Reddick with two and Bell with none. Basically, it’s an even playing field.

“If we’re all running about 20th, we’ll probably lean on each other,” Bell said. “If one of us succeeds, then we’re definitely not going to be talking to the other two.”

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Then there’s the Rookie of the Year battle to consider, or just who will score a victory first.

“If I’m hoping the other two win before me,” Reddick said, “then I probably shouldn’t be in the Cup Series to begin with.”

Bell and Reddick will keep their same crew chiefs. Jason Ratcliff is continuing his partnership with Bell, while Randall Burnett is set to remain with Reddick. Custer, however, does not have a name set in stone.

Next year’s action officially begins Feb. 16 with the Daytona 500.

“Now that the season is over, it’s definitely behind me,” Bell said. “I get the vibe I’m not an Xfinity driver anymore.”

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