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►  NFL Power Rankings – Week 1: It’s a scramble at the top after Patriots’ loss

Each week, Washington Post national NFL writer Mark Maske will provide his ranking of the league’s 32 teams.

After New England’s surprising defeat at the hands of the Chiefs on opening night in Foxborough, the top spot quickly became up for grabs.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0). Preseason Rank: 2

The Steelers become the caretaker of the No. 1 spot with the Patriots’ temporary (it says here) setback. RB Le’Veon Bell was not particularly involved in the offense Sunday in Cleveland after his late arrival before the season, but that undoubtedly will change soon. Rookie LB T.J. Watt probably won’t play every Sunday like he’s about to add a fourth NFL defensive player of the year award to the family’s mantel. But he brings energy and passion and he should be a nice addition to the defense.

2. Atlanta Falcons (1-0). Preseason Rank: 3

The opening win over the Bears was probably more challenging than it needed to be, as the Falcons just held on at the end. Things get more interesting with Sunday night’s nationally televised matchup with the Packers in the first regular season game at the Falcons’ new stadium.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0). Preseason Rank: 9

The offense was dynamic and the defense was solid during the upset Thursday night at New England. No one was calling QB Alex Smith merely a game manager, at least for one night, and WR Tyreek Hill and rookie RB Kareem Hunt were superb. The loss of safety Eric Berry to a season-ending torn Achilles’ tendon is significant. But it might be time to rethink the Chiefs’ potential to go deep into the AFC playoffs, provided that Coach Andy Reid allows the offense to keep this aggressive, attack-down-the-field approach.

4. Green Bay Packers (1-0). Preseason Rank: 4

The Packers will know very quickly this season how they match up against the NFC’s other top contenders. They beat the Seahawks on Sunday. They play in Atlanta this weekend and at Dallas on October 8.

5. Dallas Cowboys (1-0). Preseason Rank: 7

RB Ezekiel Elliott is in the lineup, perhaps all season, thanks to the injunction granted by a federal judge in Texas that keeps his six-game suspension on hold. With Elliott, the Cowboys are back to being the equal of anyone in the NFC. Elliott and QB Dak Prescott played well in the victory Sunday night over the Giants, and the performance of the remade defense was a pleasant surprise.

6. New England Patriots (0-1). Preseason Rank: 1

So much for a run at a 19-0 season. That didn’t provide much drama, did it? The defending champs were pretty dreadful in the loss to the Chiefs. The offense was out of sync and the defense gave up huge plays in the highest-scoring game ever against a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team. But are you really going to wager against Belichick and QB Tom Brady getting things fixed? The strong suspicion here is that this will still be the team to beat entering the postseason.

7. Oakland Raiders (1-0). Preseason Rank: 5

Marshawn Lynch still has some good football left in him, it appears. That is a very good sign for the Raiders as they try to be an elite team.

8. Detroit Lions (1-0). Preseason Rank: 11

QB Matthew Stafford was unbothered by the expectations that come with his huge contract and with the interception for a TD that he threw on his first pass attempt Sunday. He rebounded to throw four TD passes in the Lions’ win over the Cardinals, picking up where he’d left off in 2016.

9. Seattle Seahawks (0-1). Preseason Rank: 6

If it is true that there are internal tensions based on Seattle’s defense feeling the offense hasn’t done its part, that was not helped by how Sunday’s defeat to the Packers unfolded.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0). Preseason Rank: 14

QB Carson Wentz began his second NFL season with a mixed bag of brilliant improvisational plays and rookielike gaffes Sunday at FedEx Field. He did not get his big-name newcomers, RB LeGarrette Blount and WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, consistently involved in the offense. But it was good enough for a season-opening win over the Redskins, thanks in large part to a defense that generated four turnovers.

11. Baltimore Ravens (1-0). Preseason Rank: 16

The defense was very good against the Bengals. It’s exactly what the Ravens envisioned when they spoke during the preseason about their infusion of young pass rushers and the depth and experience in their secondary. The running game was productive in Cincinnati but more will be needed at some point from QB Joe Flacco and the passing game.

12. Denver Broncos (1-0). Preseason Rank: 12

The Broncos nearly squandered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter Monday night to the Chargers but just held on to win on a blocked field goal with one second left. Coach Vance Joseph got the victory in his NFL head coaching debut and QB Trevor Siemian played well enough to instill belief that he’s capable of getting the Broncos back into the playoffs.

13. New York Giants (0-1). Preseason Rank: 8

The offense simply is not good enough without WR Odell Beckham Jr., who was sidelined Sunday night by the ankle injury he suffered during the preseason. Minus Beckham, there is no playmaker who allows the offense to transcend the deficiencies of the offensive line. It is not all that difficult right now to envision the Eagles supplanting the Giants as the primary challenger to the Cowboys in the NFC East.

14. Carolina Panthers (1-0). Preseason Rank: 20

Cam Newton’s first real game back from shoulder surgery was pretty good. But the Panthers will probably need even better from Newton down the line if they’re going to return to contender status.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0). Preseason Rank: 25

The formula is clear for the Jaguars: Hand the football to rookie RB Leonard Fournette as often as possible, limit the chances for mistakes by QB Blake Bortles, and play defense. The pass rush won’t always be as productive as the 10-sack outing in the impressive opening victory over the Texans. But maybe, just maybe, the Jaguars can be better than anyone expected.

16. Los Angeles Rams (1-0). Preseason Rank: 27

Jared Goff looked like a franchise QB and the defense was overpowering against the Colts. Plenty of credit goes to Coach Sean McVay and defensive guru Wade Phillips. It’s only one game, of course, and the Luck-less Colts might be putrid. But it still signals considerable improvement by the Rams under their new regime. The defense should get even better with the return of DT Aaron Donald. McVay will see plenty of familiar faces when the Redskins visit L.A. this weekend.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0). Preseason Rank: 15

The Buccaneers had their opening game scheduled for this past Sunday in Miami postponed by Hurricane Irma, and now the NFL is beginning to consider whether this coming Sunday’s game in Tampa against the Bears can be played as scheduled.

18. Houston Texans (0-1). Preseason Rank: 10

The performance against the Jaguars was about as disappointing as it gets. Coach Bill O’Brien clearly needs to go to rookie Deshaun Watson as the starter at QB and, perhaps more importantly, the Texans must get holdout left tackle Duane Brown back on the field. The defense surely will play better. There is little time to sulk with a quick turnaround for Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati.

19. Minnesota Vikings (1-0). Preseason Rank: 23

Things went very well Monday night, with QB Sam Bradford throwing for 346 yards and three TDs and rookie RB Dalvin Cook providing 127 rushing yards in the win over the Saints. But after last year’s great start and subsequent unraveling, the Vikings are going to have to prove this season that they have some staying power.

20. Tennessee Titans (0-1). Preseason Rank: 18

Losing at home to a very good Raiders team is not a major transgression. But if the Titans are going to take the next step and be a formidable team, they’ll have to show that they can win at home against even tough opponents.

21. Miami Dolphins (0-0). Preseason Rank: 21

Playing 16 straight weeks after last Sunday’s postponement is not ideal for the Dolphins or the Buccaneers. But postponing the game, rather than playing it elsewhere, allowed players to be with their families. It was the proper move. Football-related competitive considerations should not take precedence at such times.

22. Los Angeles Chargers (0-1). Preseason Rank: 19

The Chargers made things very interesting with their fourth-quarter comeback Monday night in Denver but failed to force OT when their rookie kicker, Younghoe Koo, had a tying FG attempt blocked with one second left (after a successful kick didn’t count because of a Broncos timeout just before the snap). It was a determined effort in Coach Anthony Lynn’s first game but the Chargers were undone by their poor play in the first three quarters.

23. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1). Preseason Rank: 13

The shutout loss at home to the Ravens was not exactly the start the Bengals anticipated for what they hope will be a bounce-back season. QB Andy Dalton was particularly awful in a four-interception, five-sack showing. How long will he be allowed to continue to struggle like that before the Bengals would consider making a move to backup AJ McCarron?

24. Washington Redskins (0-1). Preseason Rank: 17

Kirk Cousins probably will put up some big numbers this season, and the bidders will line up for him if and when he becomes available. That will be justified in a league with so many QB-needy teams. But he still makes too many bad plays at the most inopportune times, such as the overthrow that produced a goal-line interception in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Eagles.

25. New Orleans Saints (0-1). Preseason Rank: 26

The pairing of Adrian Peterson and the Saints is not off to a promising start, but no one should have expected too much, anyway. The defense could not stop Sam Bradford and the Vikings on Monday night. How do you think it will fare against Tom Brady and the irked Patriots on Sunday?

26. Buffalo Bills (1-0). Preseason Rank: 30

Of course the Bills are in first place in the AFC East. Did you expect anything else? But does beating the Jets really count?

27. Arizona Cardinals (0-1). Preseason Rank: 22

Things got pretty bad, pretty quickly for the Cardinals, with the come-from-ahead loss to the Lions as well as the possibly dislocated wrist suffered by RB David Johnson that could require surgery.

28. Indianapolis Colts (0-1). Preseason Rank: 24

Andrew Luck is to be sidelined for at least another game, and there’s little reason to believe the Colts can win without him. Scott Tolzien clearly is not the answer at QB. Perhaps the Colts should turn to Jacoby Brissett.

29. Chicago Bears (0-1). Preseason Rank: 28

Mike Glennon gave a decent performance Sunday against the Falcons, keeping the Bears competitive before failing to get them into the end zone for what would have been a winning TD in the final minute. But did the Bears hand out that contract for decent play at QB? And is decent play enough to keep rookie Mitchell Trubisky on the bench?

30. San Francisco 49ers (0-1). Preseason Rank: 29

It’s going to be a long, long first season in the Bay Area for the new regime of Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch. It’s a necessary first step. But it won’t be much fun for anyone, most likely.

31. Cleveland Browns (0-1). Preseason Rank: 31

The Browns are improved. There’s little question about that. That, however, was a low bar to clear. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer showed some promise against the Steelers. But he and the Browns have plenty of distance to cover to reach respectability.

32. New York Jets (0-1). Preseason Rank: 32

For the tanking-the-season conspiracy theorists, it’s so far, so good.

►  Auto Racing

Monster Cup


Site: Joliet, Illinois.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 9:30 a.m. (NBCSN), qualifying, 3:45 (NBCSN); Saturday, practice 8:30 a.m. (CNBC), practice, 11 a.m. (NBCSN); Sunday, race, NBCSN

Track: Chicagoland Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles).

Race distance: 400.5 miles, 267 laps

Last year: Martin Truex Jr. won in Chicago after starting sixth.

Last race: Kyle Larson picked up his second victory in four races in Richmond.

Fast facts: Truex heads into the playoffs as the favorite after a dominant regular season. Truex also won a pair of first-round races in 2016. . . . Kyle Larson, who finished ninth a year ago, is second. . . . Kyle Busch has been better at Chicagoland than any other playoff track, posting seven top 10s in 12 starts. . . . Jimmie Johnson, the champion last season, has just three top-10 finishes since winning in Dover in June.

Next race: ISM Connect 300, Sept. 24, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, New Hampshire.




Site: Joliet, Illinois.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 11 a.m. (NBCSN), practice, 1 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 9:35 a.m. (NBCSN), race, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Chicagoland Speedway

Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps

Last year: Erik Jones held off Kyle Larson and Elliott Sadler to finish first.

Last race: Brad Keselowski won in Richmond.

Fast facts: This week’s race will lock in the last three drivers for the playoffs. . . . Elliott Sadler clinched the regular season title by finishing fifth last week. Sadler leads teammate William Byron by 95 points. . . . Kurt Busch and Erik Jones each had a loose lug nut in post-race inspection after Richmond. Their crew chiefs were fined $10,000 each.

Next race: 300, Sept. 23, Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Kentucky.



Camping World Truck


Site: Joliet, Illinois.

Schedule: Thursday, practice, 12:30 & 3:30 p.m.; Friday, qualifying, 2:05 p.m. (FS1), race, 5:30, FS1.

Track: Chicagoland Speedway.

Race distance: 225 miles, 150 laps.

Last year: Kyle Busch led 95 of 151 laps for the win.

Last race: Austin Cindric won in Canada from the pole for his first career victory.

Fast facts: The field for the playoffs will be set following Friday’s race. Seven drivers have already clinched postseason spots, and one spot remains up for grabs. . . . Christopher Bell leads the series with four victories and 24 playoff points, and he can add 15 more playoff points if he clinches the regular season title this weekend. . . . John Hunter Nemechek is second after winning twice this season.

Next race: UNOH 175, Sept. 23, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.




Site: Sonoma

Schedule: Friday, practice, 10 a.m., practice, 2 p.m. (NBCSN); Saturday, practice, 11 a.m., qualifying, 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN); Sunday, race, 3:50 p.m. (NBCSN).

Track: Sonoma Raceway (road, 2.385 miles)

Race distance: 202.7 miles, 85 laps

Last year: Simon Pagenaud won the Sonoma race, clinching the series title in emphatic fashion.

Last race: Alexander Rossi won his second career race at Watkins Glen.

Fast facts: The 2017 season comes to a close in Sonoma. Josef Newgarden, in search of his first series title, leads Scott Dixon by just three points – the smallest difference between the top two ahead of the final event since 2007. . . . Newgarden has never finished in the top five at Sonoma, while Dixon won there in 2014 and 2015. . . . Helio Castroneves (22 points back) and Simon Pagenaud (34 points back) are third and fourth.


Formula One


Site: Singapore

Schedule: Friday, 1:30 & 5:30 a.m.; Saturday, practice, 3 a.m., qualifying, 6 a.m.; Sunday, race, 5 a.m., NBCSN.

Track: Marina Bay Street Circuit (circuit, 3.44 miles).

Race distance: 192.8 miles, 56 laps

Last year: Nico Rosberg won his third consecutive race, leading 59 of 61 laps.

Last race: Lewis Hamilton won in Italy, his third victory in four events.

Fast facts: Thanks to his recent hot streak, Hamilton now leads Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari by three points. Hamilton has 238 points while Vettel has 235. Valtteri Bottas is third with 197 points. . . . Singapore hosted the first night race in Formula 1 history back in 2008.

Next race: Malaysia Grand Prix, Oct. 1, Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur.




Site: Concord, North Carolina

Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 12:30 & 3 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 10:30 a.m. & 1 p.m.; Sunday, finals, 2:17 p.m.

Track: zMax Dragway.

Last year: Antron Brown took first outside of Charlotte.

Last race: Steve Torrence won the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Fast facts: Torrence has seven victories and nine final-round appearances and is first in the point standings. He has a 20-point lead over Brown, the back-to-back world champion, after taking seven of the last 13 events. . . . Leah Pritchett, Tony Schumacher and Doug Kalitta are 30, 40 and 50 points off the lead respectively.

Next race: Dodge NHRA Nationals, Sept. 21-24, Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pennsylvania.


Other races

WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday and Saturday, Wine Country Outlaw Showdown, Calistoga Speedway, Calistoga.


Sports News

The Free Press WV

►  NASCAR punishes Gibbs, Hendrick, Penske

NASCAR suspended a slew of crew chiefs Wednesday for violations that included Denny Hamlin’s winning cars in his weekend sweep at Darlington, as well as loose lug nuts on Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s car.

Hamlin won both the Cup and Xfinity races in South Carolina, but NASCAR ruled that his cars violated rear suspension rules. Cup crew chief Mike Wheeler was suspended two races, fined $50,000 and Hamlin was stripped of five playoff points. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will still make NASCAR’s playoff field, but he will likely be without Wheeler for at least one race.

Should Wheeler sit out Saturday night’s regular-season finale at Richmond, he would only miss the next week’s playoff opener at Chicago.

Earnhardt crew chief Greg Ives was suspended one race and fined $20,000 for two loose lug nuts found after the Cup race. Hendrick Motorsports said Travis Mack will replace Ives, who will not be able to crew chief Earnhardt in the driver’s final attempt to qualify for the playoffs.

Earnhardt needs to win at Richmond on Saturday to make the playoffs. He’s retiring at the end of the season and is currently 22nd in points.

Mack has been Earnhardt’s car chief since 2015 under Ives and had worked as a mechanic at Hendrick since 2004. He won a championship with Chase Elliott as the car chief at JR Motorsports’ Xfinity team from 2013-14.

“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Travis and everyone on the team,“ Hendrick vice president of competition Jeff Andrews said. “Our people have done a great job all year with the lug nut rule. We won’t dwell on it (the penalty) and will look forward to having Greg back on the box next week at Chicagoland.“

In the Xfinity Series, Hamlin crew chief Eric Phillips was suspended two races and fined $25,000. Team Penske’s second-place car of Joey Logano also violated the suspension rule and his crew chief, Greg Erwin, was fined $25,000 and suspended two races.

►  This week in auto racing for Thursday, September 07, 2017

Monster Cup


Site: Richmond, Virginia.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., (NBCSN), qualifying, 2:45 p.m. (NBCSN); Saturday, race, 4:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Richmond Raceway (oval, 0.75 miles).

Race distance: 300 miles, 400 laps

Last year: Denny Hamlin won Richmond’s fall race from the pole.

Last race: Hamlin took first in Darlington.

Fast facts: Richmond is the final race of the regular season. Martin Truex Jr. clinched the regular season title last week in Darlington after winning two stages. . . . Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones are among the drivers that must win this weekend to earn a playoff spot. . . . Germain Racing recently announced that it had extended its contract with Ty Dillon.

Next race: Tales of the Turtles 400, Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois.





Site: Richmond

Schedule: Friday, practice, 5 a.m., qualifying, 1:15 p.m., (NBCSN), race, 4:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Richmond Raceway.

Race distance: 187.5 miles, 250 laps.

Last year: Kyle Busch won after starting seventh – one of 10 wins in just 17 series starts.

Last race: Hamlin swept the weekend’s events at Darlington.

Fast facts: William Byron is among six drivers who’ve clinched playoff spots. Byron has 17 playoff points, followed by Justin Allgaier with eight. . . . Elliott Sadler has a 91-point lead over Byron but has just five playoff points. Still, Sadler will almost certainly clinch the regular-season title on Friday.

Next race: Chicagoland 300, Sept. 16, Chicagoland Speedway.



Camping World Truck

Last race: Austin Cindric took first in Bowmanville after spinning out Kaz Grala on the last lap.

Next race: Chicagoland 225, Sept. 15, Chicagoland Speedway.



Last race: Alexander Rossi won both the pole and the race at Watkins Glen. It was Rossi’s second career victory.

Next race: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 17, Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma.


Formula One


Last race: Lewis Hamilton won his second straight race in Italy and took over first place from Sebastian Vettel.

Next race: Singapore Grand Prix, Sept. 17, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.



Last race: Steve Torrence took first at the U.S. Nationals for the first time in his career.

Next race: Carolina Nationals, Sept. 15-17, zMAX Dragway, Concord, North Carolina.


Other races

WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday and Saturday, Gold Cup Race of Champions, Silver Dollar Speedway, Chico, California.


Sports News

The Free Press WV

►  This week in racing for Thursday, August 03, 2017



Site: Watkins Glen, New York

Schedule: Saturday, practice, 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. (NBCSN); Sunday, qualifying, 9:05 a.m. (NBCSN), race, noon, NBCSN.

Track: Watkins Glen International (circuit, 2.45 miles)

Race distance: 220.5 miles, 90 laps.

Last year: Denny Hamlin held off Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski for the win.

Last race: Kyle Busch won from the pole in Pocono, his first victory of the season.

Fast facts: NASCAR announced this week that, starting next season, drivers with more than five years of Cup experience will be limited to seven races in the XFINITY series, down from the 10-race maximum set for 2017. . . . Cup drivers also will be limited to five races per season in the truck series. . . . Busch, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were found with loose lug nuts following last week’s race.

Next race: Pure Michigan 400, August 13, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan.





Site: Watkins Glen, New York.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 9 and 11:30 a.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 8:05 a.m. (NBCSN), race, 11 a.m., NBCSN.

Track: Watkins Glen International.

Race distance: 200.9 miles, 82 laps.

Last year: Logano won both the pole and the race at Watkins Glen.

Last race: Ryan Preece won his first career race at Iowa.

Fast facts: Preece was first and second in his two-race deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. Preece is running in the NASCAR Modifieds series this season. . . . Elliott Sadler’s lead over William Byron is up to 54 points. Byron, who had won three races in five starts, was ninth last week at Iowa. . . . Daniel Hemric’s average start of 8.1 ranks first among drivers who’ve run more than four races.

Next race: Mid-Ohio Challenge, August 12, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio.




Last race: Christopher Bell captured his fourth victory of the season at Pocono.

Next race: LTI Printing 200, Aug. 12, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan.



Last race: Josef Newgarden won his second straight race and third of 2017.

Next race: ABC Supply 500, Aug. 20, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania.




Last race: Sebastian Vettel won in Hungary last week.

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Aug. 27, Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps, Belgium.




Site: Kent, Washington

Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, finals, 3:37 p.m., FOX.

Track: Pacific Raceways.

Last year: Antron Brown, Ron Capps and Aaron Strong left Washington with victories.

Last race: Steve Torrence won the Top Fuel final at Sonoma.

Fast facts: Torrence now has six wins in 2017 and leads the standings by 75 points. He had just eight victories to his credit entering the season. . . . This weekend marks the end of the circuit’s Western Swing. . . . Brown, who is second in the Top Fuel standings, has taken the last two world titles. . . . Leah Pritchett is third, 119 points behind Torrence.

Next race: Lucas Oil Nationals, August 18-20, Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minnesota.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday, Night Before the Ironman, Raceway at I-55, Pevely, Missouri; Saturday, Ironman 55, Raceway at I-55.


In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  This week in auto racing



Site: Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Schedule: Saturday, practice, 6 a.m., CNBC, practice, 8:30 a.m., NBCSN; Sunday, qualifying, 8:30 a.m., NBCSN, race, noon, NBCSN.

Track: Pocono Raceway (oval, 2.5 miles)

Race distance: 400 miles, 160 laps.

Last year: Chris Buescher won his first Cup race.

Last week: Kasey Kahne snapped a nearly three-year drought with a win at Indianapolis.

Fast facts: Kahne had gone 102 races between wins. . . . Alex Bowman will fill Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s No. 88 seat in 2018, while Earnhardt will move to NBC in moves announced this week. . . . Team Penske goes to Pocono with new deals in place for Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and a third seat set for Ryan Blaney. . . . Kyle Larson, currently second in Cup points, won a sprint car race Monday in Ontario.

Next race: I Love New York 355, August 6, Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York.





Site: Newton, Iowa

Schedule: Friday, practice, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., NBCSN; Saturday, qualifying, 9:05 a.m., race, 12:30 p.m., NBC.

Track: Iowa Speedway (oval, 0.894 miles)

Race distance: 218.75 miles, 250 laps.

Last year: Erik Jones won at Iowa after starting second.

Last race: William Byron took first for the third time in five races.

Fast facts: Byron matched Carl Edwards Jr. with three victories in his first 18 starts. He also tied Kyle Busch with seven top-5s in that stretch and is first in the series with 12 top-10s in his first 18 events. . . . Elliott Sadler still leads the series however. Sadler, on the strength of 15 top-10 finishes, has a 40-point edge on Byron.

Next race: Zippo 200, August 5, Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, New York.




Site: Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 9 and 11 a.m., FS1; Saturday, qualifying, 7 a.m., FS1, race, 10 a.m., FOX.

Track: Pocono Raceway

Race distance: 150 miles, 60 laps.

Last year: William Byron won from the pole.

Last race: Matt Crafton won on Eldora’s dirt track, his first victory of the season.

Fast facts: Johnny Sauter’s lead is down to just seven points. Christopher Bell is second, and he has three wins in 2017. . . . Chase Briscoe is third and Crafton enters Pocono in fourth place. . . . Stewart Friesen earned a career-best second-place finish at Eldora. . . . Crafton, who won the series title in 2013 and 2014, took first for the first time since Charlotte last season.

Next race: LTI Printing 200, August 12, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Michigan.




Site: Lexington, Ohio.

Schedule: Friday, practice, 7 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.; Saturday, practice, 6:55 a.m., qualifying, 11 a.m., NBCSN; Sunday, race, 12:30 p.m., CNBC.

Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (circuit, 2.3 miles)

Race distance: 200.2 miles, 90 laps.

Last year: Simon Pagenaud took first on his way to the series championship.

Last race: Josef Newgarden picked up his second win of 2017 in Toronto.

Fast facts: The series has unveiled its new aero kit for 2018. Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia each ran over 100 laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval Tuesday to test it. . . . The new kit, to be used by all competitors starting next season, will also be tested at Mid-Ohio, Iowa and Sebring in August. . . . Scott Dixon’s lead over Helio Castroneves is just three points heading to Ohio.

Next race: ABC Supply 500, August 20, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania.




Site: Budapest

Schedule: Friday, practice, 1 and 5 a.m.; Saturday, practice, 2 a.m., qualifying, 5 a.m.; Sunday, race, 5 a.m., NBCSN.

Track: Hungaroring (circuit, 2.72 miles)

Race distance: 190.5 miles, 70 laps.

Last year: Lewis Hamilton won the third of four straight races in Hungary.

Last race: Hamilton won on his home track in England to move within a point of series leader Sebastian Vettel.

Fast facts: The Hungaroring has been hosting Formula One events since 1986. . . . Hamilton holds the track record with five victories, while McLaren leads all constructors with 11 wins in Hungary.

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, August 27, Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps, Belgium.




Site: Sonoma

Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Sunday, finals, 3:30 p.m., FOX.

Track: Sonoma Raceway

Last year: J.R. Todd took first in California in 2016.

Last race: Antron Brown won outside of Denver.

Fast facts: The NHRA makes the second of three stops on its Western Swing when it visits Sonoma. . . . Brown cut Steve Torrence’s lead in Top Fuel to just 54 points by winning last week. Leah Pritchett is third, 70 points back of Torrence. . . . Torrence, Brown and Pritchett have all clinched playoff berths.

Next race: Northwest Nationals, August 6, Pacific Raceways, Kent, Washington.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday, Battle of Michigan, Hartford Speedway, Hartford, Michigan; Saturday, Badger 40, Wilmot Raceway, Wilmot, Wisconsin.


►  Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

It’s the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease that can cause a range of symptoms including memory loss.

The report doesn’t confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players’ repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before they died.

“There are many questions that remain unanswered,“ said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. “How common is this” in the general population and all football players?

“How many years of football is too many?“ and “What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years,“ she noted.

It’s also uncertain if some players’ lifestyle habits — alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet — might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death — depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, “while there’s still a chance to do something about it.“ Currently, there’s no known treatment.

The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league “will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes.“

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Dave Duerson and Ralph Wenzel.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died in April 2016 at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

“A lot of families are really tragically affected by it — not even mentioning what these men are going through and they’re really not sure what is happening to them. It’s like a storm that you can’t quite get out of,“ his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career — the last seven with the Tennessee Titans — have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

“Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn’t really affect some of those guys,“ he said. “But CTE is real.“

“I know I’m suffering through it, and it’s been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this,“ said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Auto racing glance for Thursday, September 01, 2016



Site: Darlington, South Carolina

Schedule: Friday, practice (10:30 a.m., NBCSN), practice (12:30 p.m., NBCSN); Saturday, qualifying (10:45 a.m., NBCSN); Sunday, race, 3 p.m., NBC.

Track: Darlington Raceway (oval, 1.37 miles)

Race distance: (501.3 miles, 367 laps)

Last year: Carl Edwards, starting 13th, beat Brad Keselowski despite leading just 15 laps.

Last race: Driving at Michigan, Kyle Larson nabbed his first career win. It was Larson’s 99th start in stock car’s top series.

Fast facts: Larson’s win was the first for Chip Ganassi Racing in 99 races. Jamie McMurray took first at Talladega in 2013. ... Edwards has finished in the top 10 eight times in 12 starts at Darlington. ... All four drivers for Joe Gibbs Racing have won at least once at “The Lady in Black.“

Next race: Federated Auto Parts 400, Sept. 10, Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Virginia.




Site: Darlington, South Carolina

Schedule: Friday, practice (9 a.m., NBCSN.), practice (11:30 a.m., NBCSN); Saturday, qualifying (8:45 a.m., NBCSN); Saturday, race, 12:30 p.m., NBC.

Track: Darlington Raceway (oval, 1.37 miles)

Race distance: (200.8 miles, 147 laps)

Last year: Denny Hamlin took Darlington from the pole.

Last race: Michael McDowell picked up his first career win at Road America. It was also McDowell’s first start since 2014.

Fast facts: Six drivers have clinched spots in the Xfinity Chase with three races left before the playoffs. Six additional spots remain up for grabs, and drivers can clinch those with a win. ... Just three drivers have earned their first series win at Darlington in 55 races. ... Hamlin last won in back-to-back years in South Carolina in 2006 and 2007.

Next race: Virginia529 College Savings 250, Sept. 9, Richmond International Raceway, Richmond, Virginia.




Site: Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.

Schedule: Saturday, practice (6:30 a.m.), practice (8:35 a.m.), qualifying (2:45 p.m., FS2); Sunday, race, 11:30 a.m., FS1.

Track: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (road, 2.46 miles)

Race distance: (157.37 miles, 64 laps)

Last year: Erik Jones won from the front row for his second win in 2015.

Last race: Brett Moffitt won for the first time in a major NASCAR series at Michigan.

Fast facts: Moffitt finished third, second and first at Pocono, Bristol and Michigan, respectively. The Iowa native is driving in place of Matt Tifft, who is recovering from a brain tumor. ... Canadian Gary Klutt will make his series debut. Klutt, who races in NASCAR’s Pinty series, won in Bowmanville last season on his way to rookie of the year honors.

Next race: American Ethanol E15 225, Sept. 16, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Illinois.




Site: Watkins Glen, New York

Schedule: Friday, practice (8 a.m.), practice (12:30 a.m., NBCSN); Saturday, practice (8 a.m.), qualifying (noon); Sunday, race, 11 a.m., NBCSN.

Track: Watkins Glen International (road, 3.37 miles)

Race distance: (202 miles, 60 laps)

Last race: Graham Rahal won by 0.008 seconds at Texas, one of the closest victories in IndyCar history.

Fast facts: Simon Pagenaud leads Will Power in the championship race by 28 points, though there are still nine drivers mathematically eligible for the title with two races to go. The driver leading the series heading into the final two events has failed to win the championship in six of the last nine seasons ... Power was the last driver to win a series race at Watkins Glen back in 2010.

Next race: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Sept. 18, Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma.




Site: Monza, Italy

Schedule: Friday, practice (1 a.m.), practice (5 a.m.); Saturday, practice (2 a.m.), qualifying (5 a.m.), Sunday, race, 5 a.m., NBCSN.

Track: Monza National Autodrome (circuit, 3.6 miles).

Race distance: (190.6 miles,53 laps).

Last year: Lewis Hamilton won from the pole for the second race in a row in 2015.

Last race: Nico Rosberg moved within nine points of the series-leading Hamilton by winning in Belgium. Hamilton came from the back to place third.

Fast facts: Monza is one of Formula One’s signature events. The circuit first visited the Italian track in 1950, its inaugural season. ... Kevin Magnussen is expected to run in Italy despite injuring his left ankle last week in Belgium. ... Max Verstappen remains the only driver other than Hamilton and Rosberg to win a race in 2016.

Next race: Singapore Grand Prix, Sept. 18, Singapore.




Site: Indianapolis, Indiana.

Schedule: Friday, qualifying (5 p.m.); Saturday, qualifying (1:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:10 p.m.); Sunday, qualifying (9:45 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 1:55 p.m.), Monday, finals, 12:37 p.m., FOX Sports.

Track: Lucas Oil Raceway.

Last year: Morgan Lucas took first in one of just seven events he ran in 2015.

Last race: Brittany Force held off defending world champion Antron Brown in top fuel on Aug. 21 in Minnesota.

Fast facts: Indianapolis will be the last race of the regular season. The Countdown to the Championship starts next week outside of Charlotte. ... John Force has won four Funny Car events at Lucas Oil Raceway, one shy of Ed McCulloch’s record. But Force last won at the track in 2002. ... Brown remains first in the standings, 157 points ahead of Doug Kalitta.

Next race: Ninth Annual Carolina Nationals, Sept. 16-18, zMax Dragway, Concord, North Carolina.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday-Saturday, Outlaw Energy Showdown, Skagit Speedway, Alger, Washington.


In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Cyclist Burned After He Falls on His iPhone

Sydney cyclist Gareth Clear was riding his bike with his iPhone 6 in his back pocket over the weekend when his foot slipped off the pedal and he lost his balance and fell—all par for the course for riders of any level. But he was not expecting his phone to explode upon impact, thereby sending him to the hospital with third-degree burns and the need for a skin graft. “I just saw smoke coming out of my back pocket ... and then all of a sudden I felt this surging pain” and “searing heat,“ he tells the Sydney Morning Herald. (Click that link for photos.) Though he’ll be housebound all week, Clear is expected to fully recover in a matter of weeks. And his phone, whose top is still in tact, otherwise looks like “something from a chemical explosion,“ he tells the Sun.

Clear, a 36-year-old from the UK, says he doesn’t blame Apple but thinks the company should make the issue clearer to users, reports Apple hasn’t commented publicly, though Clear says he did get a private response, one he described as “very technical-driven.“ That is, “No one’s asked me, ‘How are you?‘“ A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says that it’s all about the batteries, and that athletic types might avoid carrying phones in their pockets when there is the chance of such an accident: “Lithium batteries are vulnerable to significant physical impact, [which] may damage the extremely thin separators that keep the elements of the battery apart.“

►  Team USA’s Most-Decorated Athlete Will Be Its Flag-Bearer

“King of the Olympic Rings” Michael Phelps already has more medals than any other athlete in history, Fox Sports notes. Now he’s going to add a flag to the mix as Team USA’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony in Rio on Friday, the Olympic National Committee announced Wednesday. The swimmer, headed to his fifth Olympics, has 22 medals to his name, including 18 golds. “I’m honored to be chosen, proud to represent the US, and humbled by the significance of carrying the flag and all it stands for,“ he says in a Team USA release. “For Sydney, I just wanted to make the team. For Athens, I wanted to win gold for my country. For Beijing, I wanted to do something nobody else had done. In London, I wanted to make history. And now, I want to walk in the Opening Ceremony, take it all in, represent America in the best possible way, and make my family proud. This time around, it’s about so much more than medals.“

In more fashionable opening ceremony news, per the Los Angeles Times: Polo Ralph Lauren and the US Olympic Committee revealed Team USA’s parade attire Friday, with team members set to be adorned in white denim pants, navy blue blazers, and red-white-and-blue striped T-shirts. But it’s Phelps’ outfit that will stand out the most: His jacket will be fitted with a battery pack that powers light-up panels to make his Olympic patch on the front and “USA” letters on the back glow.

►  Ump Stops Game to Eject ... a Fan

It’s not unusual for an umpire to toss somebody out of a baseball game, but it’s typically a hot-headed manager or a player. In Philadelphia on Tuesday night, it was a foul-mouthed fan. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, home-plate ump Bob Davidson stopped the Phillies-Giants game in the sixth inning to have stadium security remove a fan. (Video HERE .) “This guy starts yelling, ‘You suck!‘“ Davidson explained after the game, per ESPN. “You could tell he was [drunk]. And so, all right, suck is not bad.“ But things became progressively more graphic, and that’s when Davidson got the hook out.

“I turned around and said, ‘You know what? Get rid of this guy.‘ You could have your wife, girlfriend, kids. They buy tickets. They don’t have to come here to listen to that.“ He added that Philly fans cheered him, “which is unusual in this town for me.“ The Phillies later clarified that the fan wasn’t formally ejected but agreed to leave after talking to security. One person surprised: Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp: “I started laughing, and Bob said, ‘I don’t know how long we were going to have to listen to that guy, but I put an end to that.‘ First time I’ve seen that happen.“ USA Today notes that Davidson has had a fan thrown out previously, and provides that video link HERE .

►  Auto racing glance for Thursday, August 04, 2016



Site: Watkins Glen, New York

Schedule: Friday, practice, (NBCSN 9:30 a.m.), practice (NBCSN, noon); Saturday, qualifying (NBCSN, 9:15 a.m.); Sunday, race, 11:30 a.m., USA.

Track: Watkins Glen International (road, 2.45 miles).

Race distance: (220.5 miles, 90 laps).

Last year: Joey Logano led just one lap, but that was enough to take home first over Kyle Busch.

Last week: Chris Buescher won a weather-shortened race in Pocono, his first victory in the series.

Fast facts: Jeff Gordon will drive the No. 88 car for at least two more races as Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to battle concussion-like symptoms. ... Buescher’s surprising victory put him in position to qualify for the Chase, which looked highly unlikely before Pocono. Buescher is currently in 31st place, and if he can move into the top 30 he’ll earn a playoff spot. ... Eleven drivers, including Tony Stewart, are all but locked into the Chase, leaving just five spots left for the rest of the field.

Next race: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Aug. 20, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee.




Site: Watkins Glen, New York.

Schedule: Thursday, practice (10 a.m.), practice (12:30 p.m.); Friday, practice (NBCSN, 7 a.m.), qualifying (NBCSN, 1:45 p.m.); Saturday, race, 11 a.m., CNBC.

Track: Watkins Glen International (road, 2.45 miles).

Race distance: (200.9 miles, 82 laps).

Last year: Logano made it a sweep at Watkins Glen — and a sweep for Ford atop the podium.

Last race: Erik Jones dominated in Iowa, winning for the first time since his father died of cancer in June.

Fast facts: Trevor Bayne will be in the No. 60 car this weekend. Bayne lasted raced in the Xfinity series in 2014. ... Ty Dillon’s winless streak has reached 66 races. Dillon was in the lead in Iowa with just under 20 laps left before Jones overtook him for the win.

Next race: Mid-Ohio Challenge, Aug. 13, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio.



Last race: William Byron won for the fourth time in six races, taking first from the pole at Pocono.

Next race: Unoh 200, Aug. 17, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee.



Last race: Simon Pagenaud retook control of the championship race with his first win since May at Mid-Ohio.

Next race: ABC Supply 500, Aug. 21, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania.



Last week: Lewis Hamilton moved into first place over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg with a victory at the German Grand Prix.

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Aug. 28, Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.




Site: Seattle

Schedule: Friday, qualifying (3 p.m. and 6 p.m.); Saturday, qualifying (1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.); Sunday, finals, 3:37 p.m., FOX.

Track: Pacific Raceways.

Last year: J.R. Todd took first last year in Seattle.

Last race: Todd won for the first time in nearly a year, beating Richie Crampton in Sonoma.

Fast facts: John Force, 67, won his second consecutive Funny Car race in Sonoma, besting Ron Capps in the second event of the three-race Western Swing. ... Jack Beckman, who won the first two Top Fuel races of the swing in 2015, has won just one round in his last two races.

Next race: Lucas Oil Nationals, Aug. 18-21, Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minnesota.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Friday, Prelude to the Ironman, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, Pevely, Missouri; Saturday, Ironman 55, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.


In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  IndyCar Points Leaders

Through June 26

1. Simon Pagenaud, 375.

2. Helio Castroneves, 301.

3. Will Power, 294.

4. Scott Dixon, 285.

5. Josef Newgarden, 283.

6. Tony Kanaan, 280.

7. Carlos Munoz, 262.

8. Graham Rahal, 261.

9. Juan Pablo Montoya, 259.

10. Alexander Rossi, 257.

11. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 256.

12. Charlie Kimball, 255.

13. James Hinchcliffe, 242.

14. Sebastien Bourdais, 222.

15. Conor Daly, 186.

16. Takuma Sato, 186.

17. Marco Andretti, 184.

18. Mikhail Aleshin, 169.

19. Max Chilton, 149.

20. Jack Hawksworth, 129.

►  Formula One Points Leaders

Through July 03

1. Nico Rosberg, 153.

2. Lewis Hamilton, 142.

3. Sebastian Vettel, 96.

4. Kimi Raikkonen, 96.

5. Daniel Ricciardo, 88.

6. Max Verstappen, 72.

7. Valtteri Bottas, 54.

8. Sergio Perez, 39.

9. Felipe Massa, 38.

10. Romain Grosjean, 28.

11. Daniil Kvyat, 22.

12. Carlos Sainz, 22.

13. Nico Hulkenberg, 20.

14. Fernando Alonso, 18.

15. Jenson Button, 13.

16. Kevin Magnussen, 6.

17. Pascal Wehrlein, 1.

18. Stoffel Vandoorne, 1.

►  NASCAR Camping World Truck Points Leaders

Through June 25

1. William Byron, 226.

2. Matt Crafton, 225.

3. Timothy Peters, 221.

4. Daniel Hemric, 216.

5. Johnny Sauter, 204.

6. John Hunter Nemechek, 192.

7. Ben Kennedy, 192.

8. Tyler Reddick, 191.

9. Christopher Bell, 185.

10. Ben Rhodes, 181.

11. Spencer Gallagher, 176.

12. Cole Custer, 172.

13. Cameron Hayley, 167.

14. Tyler Young, 147.

15. Rico Abreu, 143.

16. Ryan Truex, 136.

17. Parker Kligerman, 118.

18. John Wes Townley, 115.

19. Austin Wayne Self, 112.

20. Brandon Brown, 102.

21. Travis Kvapil, 101.

22. Jordan Anderson, 78.

23. German Quiroga Jr, 70.

24. Matt Tifft, 68.

25. Austin Hill, 55.

26. Timmy Hill, 55.

27. Kaz Grala, 54.

28. Tommy Joe Martins, 54.

29. Caleb Holman, 48.

30. Grant Enfinger, 42.

31. Shane Lee, 33.

32. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 30.

33. Cody Coughlin, 29.

34. Nick Drake, 27.

35. Mike Bliss, 24.

36. Bobby Pierce, 23.

37. Michel Disdier, 22.

38. Spencer Boyd, 19.

39. Justin Haley, 19.

40. Jake Griffin, 15.

41. Jesse Little, 14.

42. Enrique Contreras III, 13.

43. Chris Fontaine, 11.

44. Casey Smith, 11.

45. Bryce Napier, 10.

46. Wayne Edwards, 10.

47. Cj Faison, 8.

48. Derek Scott Jr, 8.

49. Carlos Contreras, 8.

50. Austin Theriault, 8.

51. Ryan Lynch, 7.

52. Timothy Viens, 4.

53. Caleb Roark, 2.

54. Andy Seuss, 1.

►  NASCAR Sprint Cup Points Leaders

Through July 02

1. Kevin Harvick, 565

2. Brad Keselowski, 551

3. Kurt Busch, 545

4. Joey Logano, 531

5. Carl Edwards, 527

6. Kyle Busch, 492

7. Martin Truex Jr., 482

8. Chase Elliott, 482

9. Jimmie Johnson, 475

10. Denny Hamlin, 446

11. Matt Kenseth, 443

12. Austin Dillon, 434

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 433

14. Ryan Newman, 425

15. Ryan Blaney, 409

16. Jamie McMurray, 405

17. Trevor Bayne, 399

18. Kasey Kahne, 396

19. AJ Allmendinger, 393

20. Kyle Larson, 390

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 388

22. Greg Biffle, 324

23. Paul Menard, 320

24. Clint Bowyer, 304

25. Aric Almirola, 304

26. Danica Patrick, 302

27. Casey Mears, 268

28. Landon Cassill, 259

29. David Ragan, 243

30. Tony Stewart, 212

►  NASCAR XFINITY Points Leaders

Through July 01

1. Daniel Suarez, 499

2. Elliott Sadler, 493

3. Ty Dillon, 483

4. Justin Allgaier, 462

5. Brendan Gaughan, 449

6. Erik Jones, 442

7. Brandon Jones, 429

8. Brennan Poole, 422

9. Darrell Wallace Jr., 394

10. Ryan Reed, 366

11. Ryan Sieg, 350

12. Blake Koch, 341

13. Ross Chastain, 334

14. Jeremy Clements, 306

15. Dakoda Armstrong, 301

16. J.J. Yeley, 274

17. Garrett Smithley, 270

18. Jeb Burton, 260

19. Ryan Preece, 242

20. Ray Black Jr., 201

21. B J McLeod, 196

22. Joey Gase, 189

23. Mario Gosselin, 144

24. Alex Bowman, 141

25. Justin Marks, 138

26. David Starr, 126

27. Harrison Rhodes, 108

28. Mike Harmon, 102

29. Jeff Green, 100

30. Derrike Cope, 92

►  NHRA Leaders

Through June 26

Top Fuel

1, Doug Kalitta, 1,009. 2, Antron Brown, 940. 3, Steve Torrence, 846. 4, Brittany Force, 832. 5, Tony Schumacher, 729. 6, Shawn Langdon, 711. 7, J.R. Todd, 645. 8, Clay Millican, 572. 9, Richie Crampton, 570. 10, Leah Pritchett, 463.

Funny Car

1, Ron Capps, 966. 2, Courtney Force, 836. 3, Jack Beckman, 823. 4, Del Worsham, 762. 5, Tommy Johnson Jr., 750. 6, Matt Hagan, 747. 7, Tim Wilkerson, 723. 8, Robert Hight, 722. 9, John Force, 668. 10, Alexis DeJoria, 640.

Pro Stock

1, x-Jason Line, 1,389. 2, x-Greg Anderson, 1,274. 3, Bo Butner, 796. 4, Allen Johnson, 719. 5, Drew Skillman, 683. 6, Vincent Nobile, 613. 7, Chris McGaha, 557. 8, Shane Gray, 532. 9, Jeg Coughlin, 528. 10, Alex Laughlin, 498.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1, Eddie Krawiec, 557. 2 (tie), Andrew Hines and Jerry Savoie, 391. 4, Angelle Sampey, 372. 5, Chip Ellis, 300. 6, Hector Arana, 291. 7, LE Tonglet, 253. 8, Matt Smith, 192. 9, Scotty Pollacheck, 183. 10, Steve Johnson, 179.

x-qualified for Countdown to the Championship.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  The Indy 500 Has Its First Official Poet in 90 Years

An Indiana University student who is a poet and a performer has been named the Indianapolis 500’s first official poet since the early 20th century. Adam Henze of Bloomington beat out more than 200 others who submitted Indy 500-themed poems for the contest co-sponsored by Indiana Humanities, reports the AP. The competition revives an Indy 500 tradition from the 1920s, when an official poem was included in the race day program. Henze is an educator and a doctoral candidate at IU. He receives a $1,000 cash prize and two tickets to the 100th running of the race on May 29. His poem, titled “For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things,“ will appear in the official race program. Henze also will read his winning poem at the Speedway during qualification weekend.

►  Bong Photo May Have Cost NFL Draft Pick Millions

Despite being drafted 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins with a contract worth an expected $12.4 million, Thursday was a bad day for Laremy Tunsil. CBS News reports the University of Mississippi offensive lineman was expected to go much higher—to the Baltimore Ravens with the sixth pick—which would have earned him an estimated $20.4 million. Tunsil’s potentially $8 million loss is almost certainly due to a video allegedly showing him smoking pot out of a gas mask bong that was posted to his Twitter account minutes before the start of the NFL Draft.

But it didn’t end there for Tunsil. According to the Washington Post, screenshots of a private conversation between Tunsil and a Mississippi coach were posted to his Instagram account while he was at the draft. The conversation shows Tunsil requesting money to pay his mother’s utility bill, among other things, in violation of NCAA rules. Tunsil admitted being in the video—which he says was filmed years ago—and asking for money but says someone hacked his social media accounts to post the incriminating images. One possible suspect: his stepfather Lindsay Miller. Miller filed a lawsuit against Tunsil on Tuesday claiming Tunsil assaulted him and defamed him last June. Tunsil claims he was protecting his mother from Miller.

Auto Racing (IndyCar)

The Free Press WV

►  IndyCar should re-examine concussion policy

When Team Penske pulled Will Power out of the season-opening race hours before its start, questions immediately swirled about the health of one of IndyCar’s top drivers.

The revelation from IndyCar during the middle of Sunday’s race that Power had been diagnosed with a mild concussion immediately begged the question: How did the series, which is lauded for its medical team, and Team Penske, one of the top organizations in motorsports, miss the signs?

The answer is a complicated series of events that allowed Power to get back in the race car despite being injured in a wreck two days earlier.

Here’s what is known:

— Power arrived in St. Petersburg for the opening race with an inner ear infection he had been treating all week.

— He was involved in a crash during a Friday practice sessions. Because St. Pete is a street course, not an oval, IndyCar does not require a driver be checked in the care center following an accident.

— The safety crew that responded to Power’s accident spoke with the Australian, who did not complain of any injuries and showed no signs of a problem. The light on Power’s car that indicates a heavy impact was not triggered in the crash. He was taken back to his pit stand from the wrecked car.

— IndyCar examined data collected from Power’s ear accelerometers, which provide data specific to the impact on a driver’s head. The data did not show that Power was in need of further evaluation. Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar’s safety consultant, said Monday that suspicion for a concussion occurs if the data is greater than or equal to 80 g’s. Anything above 50 g’s requires a follow-up. Power’s ear accelerometer data was 31.8 g’s.

— Power began complaining of nausea on Saturday, and team owner Roger Penske said the driver was sick to his stomach when he exited his car. Still, Power participated in three rounds of qualifying — breaking his track record all three times — and won the pole for Sunday’s race.

The red flags began to fly shortly after his pole-winning run.

First, Power seemed scattered during his television interview. His answers were almost comical in how little he had to say — in hindsight, a strong indicator something might be amiss. Then he seemed to nearly double over and his wife had to help him to the pit wall, where he tried to pull himself together. Power then begged out of the post-qualifying news conference, apologetically stating he was nauseous.

During an IndyCar management meeting early Sunday, questions were raised about Power skipping the media session. When race director Brian Barnhart heard the driver was nauseous — a symptom of a concussion — he demanded Power be seen immediately by the medical staff.

Penske was already in motion and had Oriol Servia at the track as a possible replacement driver, but the team still wondered whether Power’s issues could be related to the ear infection or a stomach bug that others in the paddock had all weekend.

Instead, IndyCar medical director Geoffery Billows diagnosed Power with a concussion and ruled him out of Sunday’s race. Power is now in IndyCar’s concussion protocol and cannot compete again until he’s been medically cleared. It’s at least Power’s third concussion since 2009 — he also suffered one at Sonoma in 2009 and at Iowa in 2011 — but as his latest case clearly shows, concussions sometimes go undetected.

“It is not uncommon for an individual who has been concussed to appear to be normal immediately following the concussive event and then to manifest signs and symptoms hours to several days later,“ said Trammell.

In NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. at least twice in his career hid concussion symptoms to avoid being removed from his car. In 2012, he sought medical attention several days after a crash at Talladega because of symptoms he knew were concussion-related. During that examination, it was determined he’d suffered two concussions in six weeks and was sidelined for two weeks of healing.

NASCAR the next year required drivers to submit a baseline neurocognitive assessment. When a driver in NASCAR can’t return his damaged car to the garage, a trip to the care center is required, and under a new three-step process, if a driver shows any indication of a head injury they go immediately to a hospital. Concussed drivers must be cleared by a neurologist or neurosurgeon before they can get back in a race car.

IndyCar has a similar concussion protocol, and required baseline testing long before NASCAR. There used to be a mandate that an IndyCar driver had to be sidelined a minimum of seven days after a concussion, but that wasn’t the case in 2014 when James Hinchcliffe was cleared to get back in a car five days after he received a concussion when he was struck in the helmet by debris.

What needs to change, though, is the policy on not requiring a driver to be checked by the IndyCar staff after every accident in which the car is too damaged to drive.

Although Power appeared fine to the safety crew, and his performance in Saturday qualifying certainly didn’t suffer, it’s clear now he never should have been in a car. There are times when symptoms of a concussion are slow to be revealed, but IndyCar will never know if that’s the case with Power because he had only been seen briefly at the crash scene on Friday by Billows.

“Dr. Billows carried out a mandatory screening evaluation at the scene of the crash and found Will Power to have no signs or symptoms of a concussion,“ Trammell said.

Safety pioneer Bill Simpson has been shouting from every corner that the mandated helmet in IndyCar is inferior and doesn’t provide enough protection — and he might be right. Justin Wilson died last year when he was struck in the head by a piece of debris.

Either way, IndyCar needs to take a hard look at the Power debacle and immediately determine if changes to its protocol are required.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  NFL considers use of video on sideline tablets

SAN FRANCISCO — Back when Joe Montana played, he viewed grainy photos of formations between series that were sent to the sideline from the press box attached to a wire with a metal clip.

By next season, quarterbacks might be able to view video of all plays on their sideline Microsoft Surface tablets as the NFL considers taking another significant step forward in terms of technology and the game.

Brian Rolapp, the executive vice president of media for the NFL, said that after tests in the preseason and Pro Bowl there are no technological hurdles preventing teams to be able to have access to video during the game by next season.

The main question remaining: Will the competition committee and owners decide it’s a useful change that does not take away from the strategy or competitive balance of the game?

“Let’s make sure that whatever we do, that the focus is still the human competition,“ Rolapp said after a technology summit sponsored by Microsoft on Tuesday. “We don’t want it to replace the human competition because that’s what people still want to watch.“

Players are excited about the possibilities. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said the improvements in efficiency with the sideline tablets has been immense since they started being used three years ago.

Instead of looking at two black-and-white photos from pre- and post-snap, he now has access to four clear color shots on the tablet that also include two pictures taken during the play. He is able to easily scroll between plays and draw directly on the tablet to make adjustments in patterns and protections with teammates.

Using the video capabilities in last year’s Pro Bowl won Brees over on that technology as well. He saw one play when Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown ran a route behind a defender. He showed Brown the play and told him to run in front the next time they called the play. Two series later, that same call resulted in a touchdown.

“Without the video I wouldn’t have been able to see that and communicate it with him,“ Brees said. “Obviously that directly affected the performance of what we were able to accomplish.“

That kind of technology was something Montana never could have imagined when he played. He had to lug around heavy playbooks and do his film study on projectors at the team facility instead of on tablets at home or on airplanes.

“Things have changed a lot, as fast as they get things on the sideline and how many different views there are,“ he said. “It’s a lot better, especially for the quarterback.“

Another issue is how to handle any potential problems with the technology that prevent one team from using it during a game. When the headset communication system from the press box to the sideline breaks down for one team, the other is not allowed to use it.

When there are problems with the coach-to-quarterback helmet speaker once the game has started, that is not the case.

In the AFC championship game last month, the New England Patriots were temporarily without photos on their sideline tablets because of a connectivity issue. It was resolved.

“What happened in the AFC championship was nothing related to the Surface tablet but had everything to do with the connectivity and the bandwidth in the building,“ Rolapp said. “From everything we have seen, they have worked flawlessly.“

Microsoft also showed off three ideas submitted by fans for new technology as part of the Imagine Bowl. The first expands on the RFID chips worn by players to give teams and fans more information about how fast and far players run, and other data that could help determine when players are fatigued and more susceptible to injury.

There is a stadium app that offers fans at games information about lines, concessions and can access other game information such as videos.

The third is a small camera attached to the equipment to provide the actual view a player sees during the game.

The winner will be picked Friday and get a $50,000 prize.

►    IndyCar puts safety at top of priority list entering 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar officials are trying to make racing safer and more appealing in 2016.

After spending a busy offseason trying to stop cars from flipping and limiting the dangers of flying debris, Mark Miles spent Tuesday explaining how rules changes could help.

The most notable difference this season will be the addition of rear beam wing flaps, something similar to what NASCAR has been using on the roofs of its cars and that is designed to keep the lighter IndyCars from going airborne when they are rolling backward.

“I’m told ours are more heavy-duty and professionally engineered and cooler (than NASCAR’s) and will be effective,“ joked Miles, the CEO of IndyCar’s parent company, Hulman & Co. “But time will tell.“

Inside series headquarters, this is serious business.

Last season was marred by a series of problems — expansive debris fields on race day, upside-down cars and the tragic accident that claimed the life of Justin Wilson one day after he was hit in the head by debris from another car at Pocono.

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe, who was seriously injured during Indy 500 practice and missed the rest of the season even though his car stayed on the ground, said he believes protective canopies could be on the cars within three years. That’s two years sooner than he anticipated last summer.

“Anything that adds protection to the head is good,“ Hinchcliffe said before noting the new addition to Formula One cars wouldn’t work as well on the high-banked ovals at IndyCar venues. “It’s easy to throw a canopy on a car, but there’s a hundred other things that you have to look at.“

When asked if the timeline had been pushed up, Miles acknowledged the series has been working extensively with an unidentified international company. He said there are still significant details to work out — how strong the materials must be, how much weight a canopy would add to the car, how it would affect visibility and whether it would be a complete enclosure.

“It’s not going to happen this year, for sure, and it’s still too soon to say whether they’d be ready for 2017 or 2018,“ Miles said. “But we’re pretty confident that it can be developed.“

Until then, Miles and his executive team, including new competition and operations president Jay Frye, are taking more immediate measures to protect drivers.

In November, the series announced it would use tethers on the rear beam wing and rear wing guards at all races while the nose and front wing main plate on the three superspeedways the series uses. On Tuesday, Miles said an improved fuel probe sensor will prevent drivers from pulling out of the pits while the probe is still attached to the car. That’s what happened to Graham Rahal at Fontana last season.

And unlike last season, when there were no oval races before the Indianapolis 500 and no testing of the new aero kits at IMS, the series has scheduled an April 6 test at Indy to make sure the new equipment works properly.

The other obligation, of course, is to expand the fan base.

Miles expects television ratings will continue to increase, thanks in part to a creative schedule that eliminates some of the overlap with NASCAR races and NFL games. He also remains confident that the September 4 race on Boston’s street course will be held on time.

Some residents have complained about the “disruption” caused by that race, but Miles said the promoters and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh are still on board. The promoters even announced Tuesday that Coors Light has signed on as a sponsor.

Former series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 winner, can’t wait.

“Boston is the perfect market to be in. The track is amazing,“ he said. “The site and where I saw it, how it’s going to be, the plans for it, massive potential. I hope it’s one of our cornerstone events.“

►  Last Straw? Browns Will Reportedly Dump Manziel

He started with such great promise, but it now appears that quarterback Johnny Manziel is about to flame out of his NFL job. ESPN reports that the Cleveland Browns plan to cut Manziel as soon as the new NFL year starts in March. The decision comes after yet another off-field incident: Police in Fort Worth, Texas, are investigating whether Manziel assaulted an ex-girlfriend on Saturday—the second investigation of an alleged domestic incident in recent months, reports The former college phenom dubbed “Johnny Football” also spent 73 days in rehab but has been photographed of late drinking. His 2-6 record as a starter isn’t helping his prospects, and the team apparently has had enough.

“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field,“ says a team statement released Tuesday. “Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules. We will have no further comment at this time.“

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