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Photos: 2018 Winter Olympics: U.S. women's hockey team wins gold

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

U.S. women's hockey team wins Olympic gold

The United States has defeated Canada 3-2 to win the gold medal in women’s hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

>> PHOTOS: 2018 Winter Olympics: U.S. women's hockey team wins gold

>> Read more trending news 

NASCAR President speaks out after ratings plummet for Daytona 500

Despite a wildly entertaining race to start the season at the Daytona 500, ratings were down yet again on FOX for NASCAR’s season opener.

Ratings were bad for most of last season, and they reportedly set a new low during last Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Fox's 5.1 overnight rating for Daytona 500 likely would be a new low for the event. Yes a crowded sports weekend, but 2014 race was up against Olympics and had record-setting delay and still got a 5.6 overnight. Fox also down 22% from 2017 race — Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) February 19, 2018

Related: Despite a thrilling Daytona 500, NASCAR looks like it’s headed for horrible news

Even though ratings weren’t great, NASCAR president Brent Dewar is optimistic about the future of the sport. He told Forbes that the influx of young, talented drivers has given him a positive outlook for the future.

Dewar said that even though NASCAR has lost popular drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in recent years, the sport has been preparing for their departures by grooming the next generation of drivers.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Dewar said. “We never know exactly when a Jeff Gordon’s going to retire, but that happens every decade. The good news is that we’ve been working on our youth initiative for the better part of seven or eight years. So we’ve got an incredible array of drivers coming in.”

Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace are just a few of the young drivers who Dewar is banking on to become the next generation of stars.

While TV ratings were down, the race did sell out — even though Daytona took out about 50,000 seats a few years ago. Still, Dewar said the live racing experience is very important to attract fans.

“We know from our research and our personal experience, if you attend a race…we have our best chance of making you a fan for life,” Dewar said. “It’s only at the live racing experience that you get the sights, the sounds, the sort of feel that’s truly what NASCAR racing is. And the next time you turn on the TV, you’ll see the layers differently.”

So, even though things temporarily don’t look great for NASCAR, Dewar still believes the future is bright. He’s relying on the young generation of drivers to connect with fans, and given how they’ve performed lately, they might be a safe bet.

One race into the NASCAR season, Toyota sees a big challenge ahead

Toyota dominated the 2017 season in the Cup Series as Martin Truex Jr. drove his Toyota to a championship, and the company easily won the manufacturers’ championship.

But Toyota executives know the 2018 season won’t be a breeze, and it will be a difficult challenge for Toyota to defend both of its titles from a season ago.

David Wilson, who serves as Toyota’s president of motorsports in the U.S., told Autosport he knows this year will be very challenging.

“In many sports, not just racing, the biggest challenge is coming off a championship season – how do you push yourself even further?” Wilson said.

Related: Racing’s next rising star thanks NASCAR’s Danica Patrick for blazing the trail

Wilson said being the hunter is an easier position to be in than being at the top of the food chain.

“Sometimes it’s easier to chase than being chased, because you know there’s a target; when you’re the target you have to approach a little bit differently,” he said. “But that’s a good position to be in frankly.”

Toyota had two drivers in the Championship 4 a season ago with Truex and Kyle Busch, and Ford had the other two drivers with Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. But Toyota’s top challenger this year might actually be Chevrolet.

Chevy unveiled its new Camaro for this season, and if the Daytona 500 is any indication, 2018 could be a bounce back year. The top two finishers at the Daytona 500 — Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace — were both driving Chevys.

Denny Hamlin finished third in a Toyota, but Truex and Busch were both outside of the top 15. That probably won’t become a trend for those two, but it will be interesting to see if Chevy continues to outperform Toyota.

NASCAR driver will see a dream realized in Las Vegas

When the Cup Series makes its way to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next month, the field will include a driver making his first career start in the series.

Cole Custer will make his first career Cup Series start on March 4 for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 51 Ford. Custer, 20, is in his second full season in the Xfinity Series, and he finished fifth for the year a season ago.

As @Motorsport first reported, @colecuster00 will drive the No. 51 Ford for @RickWareRacing in the Cup race @LVMotorSpeedway with backing from @Haas_Automation #NASCAR — Chris Knight ツ (@Knighter01) February 21, 2018

Related: A NASCAR driver will be honored in Atlanta for hitting a major milestone

Haas Automation will be the sponsor for Custer’s car. He said in a statement via NBC Sports that he’s ready to compete in the Cup Series.

“This is a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series,” Custer said. “I can’t thank Rick Ware Racing and Haas Automation enough for the opportunity to race at Las Vegas. It’s going to be a new experience for me, but I feel that we can have a productive day by completing all the laps and seeing the checkered flag.”

Custer won his first career Xfinity Series race in the season finale last year at Homestead.

NASCAR is on pace to make embarrassing history at Atlanta

While everyone in the NASCAR world is still talking about last Sunday’s wild Daytona 500, the sport has to turn its attention to this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There isn’t as much buzz surrounding the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 400 — which is understandable since Daytona is the most popular race in the sport — but this Sunday’s race is set to make some unfortunate history.

According t0 AP analyst Jenna Fryer, there are only 36 cars currently entered for Sunday’s race. If that number holds, it would be the smallest field in decades.

Last year, there were 39 cars competing at Atlanta, which was the smallest field in two decades.

Related: A NASCAR driver will be honored in Atlanta for hitting a major milestone

Under NASCAR’s charter system, only 36 cars are guaranteed a spot in each race. The maximum number of drivers in a field is now 40, and open cars have less incentive to show up to compete at qualifying.

NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said he would like to see more full-time cars in the field each week, but he likes where things are for now.

“I think it is one of the best fields we’ve had, it’s deep,” O’Donnell said. “In the future, would we like to see more? We probably would. But when you look across all of sports now, the idea of sending someone home with a major sponsor, it just doesn’t happen in sports today. It’s not just a reality for NASCAR, it’s all motorsports, and sports in general.”

It’s an unfortunate setback for NASCAR, especially after such a promising start to the season. Despite the low TV ratings, the product on the track was quality during Austin Dillon’s win. Bubba Wallace’s strong performance has fans buzzing, and Denny Hamlin’s feud with him following the race was another fun layer for the sport.

Hopefully the product continues to improve and NASCAR can avoid more setbacks throughout the season.

Former coach Rick Pitino reacts to NCAA sanctions at Louisville

Former Louisville Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is not all that happy with the NCAA following the sanctions being upheld by the governing body against the university.

“To say I’m disappointed with the NCAA’s appeals ruling is a gross understatement,” Pitino said during a news conference.

For context:

Louisville used Tuesday to make an unexpected announcement, as the university has released information in regards to the school’s NCAA appeal ruling.  The NCAA has upheld its initial ruling.

The NCAA in June placed Louisville on four years’ probation and ordered that it vacate up to 123 victories, including the 2013 title and 2012 Final Four appearance.

After being allowed to talk following an embargo, it has been revealed that the university lost its appeal from the StripperGate saga. For those unaware, back in October of 2016, the NCAA alleged a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players.

“Did a few of [the players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes they did,” Pitino said. “But that had nothing to do with an extra benefit. That had nothing to do with helping their eligibility or performance in winning that championship. “Those parties did not enhance our players’ ability to win a national championship or go to a Final Four.”

Pitino, fired prior to the start of this season, wasn’t only canned for the FBI probing the school’s recruiting efforts by way of a shoe apparel company funneling money to high school players. Pitino received a bit of a lifetime achievement award, as he also has one of the most infamous 15 recorded seconds of chain restaurant history, as well as the entire escort scandal.

Related: Give David Padgett a chance Louisville

“How do you take down a championship? They’ve earned it,” he said. “You need to get an injunction. The NCAA, they have total autonomy. I’m sure Notre Dame is not going to let it happen, and neither should the University of Louisville, in my opinion. I wish I could do it. Unfortunately, I’m defenseless.”

Pitino, once again, swore he had no idea about the escorts.


Former teammate calls out LeBron James for “quitting” during NBA finals series

Eddie House, a former teammate of LeBron James during his stint with the Miami Heat, downplayed the notion of James as the “greatest basketball player of all-time” during an appearance on FS1’s Undisputed this week.

During the debate, House argued that it was “ridiculous” for anyone to believe “The King” could replace Michael Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history, specifically because he “quit” on his team during the 2011 NBA Finals.

“I can’t get over the fact that he didn’t show up in Dallas, not only because I was on the team, but the fact that he was the best player and everyone was depending on him to show up and do what he does and he was M.I.A.,” House said of James. “He had a bad series. Jordan never had that. People kill James Harden for having a bad series last year, right? ‘Oh no, he ain’t as good as he is.’ But you’re going to say somebody that quit in the Finals, at the end of everything with all the marbles on the table, that you’re going to say that he’s the greatest of all-time? I can’t buy it.”

House, of course, is referring to James’ first season in Miami, which included a series loss to the Mavericks in six games. The Heat, however, would win the next two consecutive NBA Championships, as well as the Eastern Conference title during the forward’s entire run with the team.

Though Jordan still has a 6-3 advantage over James in league titles, it’s worth noting that the King has led his teams to the Finals during each of the last seven consecutive seasons, which itself is remarkable.

But there will always be passionate arguments to both sides of this debate and it’s unlikely we’ll ever reach a consensus agreement no matter what James accomplishes.

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