July 23, 2014

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Tagliani finds happy place, speed in NASCAR
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, June 26, 2014 8:14 PM


Associated Press


ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — An accomplished veteran in open-wheel racing, Alex Tagliani probably could find a full-time ride in the IndyCar series if he wanted it badly enough.

So what’s he doing driving stock cars?

Having the time of his life, apparently.

“You need to throw some challenges into your life, into your career,” Tagliani said. “If not, it gets boring. For me, when I drive a stock car, it doesn’t come natural. It takes a lot of control. So when I get out of the car, I feel like I want more. Maybe that’s what keeps the spark in you to be in love with what you do.”

Tagliani, a 40-year-old native of Montreal who made his name in Indy-style racing — he won the pole position for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 — is driving two road courses for Team Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide series this season.

He dominated much of a rain-soaked race at Road America last weekend, only to run out of gas near the end; he refueled and made a mad charge to a second-place finish in a green-white-checker overtime. He’ll drive again for Penske at Mid-Ohio in August.

Beyond that, Tagliani is racing in the relative obscurity of the Canadian Tire series, NASCAR’s humble attempt to establish a foothold for stock car racing north of the border. He’s also doing some sports car racing.

He did drive in the Indianapolis 500 in May, finishing 13th, but he has very little desire to pursue a full-time IndyCar ride at this point in his career. Backing away from IndyCar has largely freed him from the money-fueled politics that frustrated him.

“The Indianapolis 500 is a huge event,” Tagliani said. “But running an Indy car for a full season, there’s a price to pay, and I was not willing to continue to pay that price this year.”

When Tagliani says there’s a price to pay, he’s being literal; unlike other sports, where teams draft and sign the best players they can, talent is only one factor in determining who gets hired by a particular team in auto racing.

All teams expect a driver to be a good spokesman they can sell to a corporate sponsor — but some teams take it one step further, actually expecting the driver to come to the table with sponsorship deals already in hand.

“You’re actually funding, or helping, a team to survive and you’re helping their business, but they’re not helping you back,” Tagliani said. “You’re helping them with your energy and your money and your work and they use that, and there’s always the grass is greener somewhere else, right? You’re never able to build something for the long term. To the point where it frustrates you and I didn’t want to drive frustrated. I just wanted to enjoy driving, you know?

St. John’s hosts volleyball camp
Written by Staff Reports   
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:21 PM
The St. John’s Girls Volleyball Program had another productive and successful week at its recent High School Camp. Most Improved award went to Ally Gerberick and the Hustle Award went to Maddie Buettner. (Submitted photo)
Club teammates Messi, Neymar top World Cup scorers
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:21 PM

Associated Press


RIO DE JANEIRO — The race for the World Cup golden boot turned into a Barcelona battle Wednesday as Lionel Messi scored twice to lead Argentina to an entertaining 3-2 win over Nigeria and match Neymar’s tournament-leading four goals in three games for Brazil.

Xherdan Shaqiri also vaulted into contention by scoring a hat trick as Switzerland beat Honduras 3-0 to qualify second in Group F. He joined Karim Benzema and Enner Valencia, who could not add to their three tournament goals each as France played out a 0-0 draw against 10-man Ecuador that ensured the French won Group E.

Bosnia recorded its first ever World Cup victory in the day’s other match, downing Iran 3-1 as both teams exited the tournament.

The Swiss will next face Messi and Argentina on Tuesday in Sao Paulo. France plays Nigeria in Brasilia on Monday.

One player who may not be in the reckoning for tournament top scorer is Luis Suarez, who is the focus of a FIFA disciplinary investigation after he appeared to bite the left shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday and could be facing a lengthy ban.

He should know soon if he will be sanctioned. Uruguay plays Colombia Saturday in the round of 16.

“We have to resolve it either today or tomorrow,” FIFA disciplinary panel member Martin Hong told reporters. “It’s our duty to see justice done.”

Messi drew level with Barcelona teammate Neymar when he pounced on a rebound in the third minute and then curled in a free kick shortly before halftime.

“Messi is one of heck of a player, he’s blessed. You can’t take it away from him,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. “Messi is from Jupiter, he is different.”

The 22-year-old Neymar is relishing playing the World Cup at home and thriving on the pressure that brings.

“I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid,” he said. “Today my dream is coming true, I’m playing the matches that I’ve always wanted to be playing.”

Ahmed Musa matched Messi goal for goal in Porto Alegre, equalizing just a minute after Messi opened the scoring in the third minute and levelling again in the second half after Messi’s perfectly curled free kick shortly before the break had put Argentina ahead again. Marcos Roja finally sealed Argentina’s win in the 50th.

In Salvador, Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsajevic got Bosnia’s goals in its historic win and Reza Ghoochannejhad scored for Iran, which had to win and hope Nigeria lost to progress.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz quit following his team’s exit, as did Japan’s Italian manager Alberto Zaccheroni and coach Luis Suarez of Honduras. Their Portugal counterpart Paul Bento, however, said he would stay on even if his team fails to qualify for the round of 16.

Portugal, the world’s No.4-ranked team, has just one point from its first two Group G games and is unlikely to reach the knockout stage even if it beats Ghana in Brasilia today.

While the World Cup goal glut continued on the pitch — with the exception of the France-Ecuador stalemate, Suarez was again hogging headlines with his latest alleged biting incident.

If FIFA rules that Suarez sank his teeth into Chiellini’s shoulder, it could suspend him for up to 24 matches or sideline him for a maximum of two two years. The Uruguay and Liverpool star is a repeat offender — he has twice been sanctioned for biting in his turbulent past, first in the Dutch league in 2010 when playing for Ajax and again in 2013 while in a Liverpool shirt. He also has been banned for racially abusing an opponent in England.

The latest scandal could cost Suarez more than time on the sidelines. Already, two of his sponsors — 888poker and Adidas — have hinted that they are looking closely at their deals with Suarez.

Meanwhile, tragedy struck in Nigeria before the country’s clash with Argentina, as an explosion killed at least 21 people in a shopping mall in the capital, Abuja. Many shops at the mall have TV screens but it was unclear if the explosion was timed to coincide with the match, which started an hour later.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said he was saddened by news of the blast and that his team’s progression to the second round is unlikely to offer any solace to the country as it suffers terrorist attacks. Nigeria is the first African nation to reach the knockout stages in Brazil.

“How much of a victory is football going to give for those lives?” he asked.

US and Klinsmann face German friends and foes

RECIFE, Brazil — When Jermaine Jones stands for the national anthems of his countries tonight, he will soak in the moment.

Jones, like four American teammates and his coach, will be familiar with both “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the “Deutschlandlied” before the United States’ World Cup game against Germany.

After playing three games in 2008 for the nation in which he grew up, Jones switched allegiance to the U.S. two years later.

“When I hear the anthem from the United States, I will close my eyes and let everything go through,” the tenacious midfielder said.

And then comes the big game.

Four years of work by the U.S. come down to 90 or so minutes in the afternoon heat and possibly rain at Arena Pernambuco on the outskirts of a sprawling beach city known as the Brazilian Venice. Having squandered the chance to clinch advancement earlier this week against Portugal by allowing a stoppage-time goal in a 2-2 draw, the Americans might need at least a tie against the 3-time champions to reach the knockout stage of consecutive World Cup for the first time.

The story lines are gripping:

—U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann facing the nation he helped win the 1990 World Cup title and coached to the 2006 semifinals.

—Germany coach Joachim Loew managing against Klinsmann, his former boss.

—Five German-American players with U.S. servicemen fathers and German mothers going up against a German squad filled with familiar faces from the Bundesliga.

—Fear by some the U.S. and Germany might collude on a draw, which would advance both nations while eliminating Portugal and Ghana. Both sides insist that won’t happen.

—Thousands of American fans with red, white and blue gear making the trek to the Southern Hemisphere to cheer in person and millions back home tuning into games at record levels.

“The country is in a soccer fever and they’re glued to the TVs when we play,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said Wednesday.

The Germans beat Portugal 4-0 and tied Ghana 2-2, leaving them with four points and a plus-4 goal difference. The Americans, who defeated Ghana 2-1, have four points and a plus-1 goal difference.

Ghana and Portugal, with one point each, play simultaneously in Brasilia, knowing a tie in either game would eliminate both of them. U.S. Soccer Federation officials will have a system to relay the score of the other match to the bench.

“To be able to keep that level of interest for another four, five, six and hopefully more days would be great for the sport,” USSF President Sunil Gulati said. “I think for the first time in our history — recent history, I’m not going to talk about 1950 or before — our players believe they’re capable of beating anyone.”

He rejects the notion the dual nationals are any less American than those who came up through the U.S. youth system.

When the U.S. and Germany met for the first time in the group stage of the 1998 Cup, Klinsmann scored the second goal in a 2-0 win. The teams played four years later in the quarterfinals, when Michael Ballack’s 39th-minute goal gave the Germans a 1-0 victory. The Americans still complain Scottish referee Hugh Dallas declined to call a penalty kick when Gregg Berhalter’s 49th-minute shot hit the left arm of defender Torsten Frings at the goal line.

Latos helps Reds beat Cubs 4-1
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:20 PM


Associated Press


CHICAGO — Mat Latos pitched seven sharp innings for his first win of the season and Jay Bruce had two run-scoring doubles, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night.

With the wind blowing in on a cold summer night, Devin Mesoraco’s 5-game homer streak came to an end. The Reds catcher was tied with Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Bench, George Crowe and Ted Kluszewski for the franchise record.

Latos (1-0) allowed one run and five hits in his third start after beginning the season on the disabled list. It was his first win since Sept. 20 against Pittsburgh.

Latos was coming off a frustrating no-decision against Toronto, when he was staked to an 8-0 lead and was unable to hold on. He gave up five runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Blue Jays rallied for a 14-9 victory Friday night.

Edwin Jackson (5-8) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Chicago, which has dropped four out of five. Starlin Castro had two hits and drove in a run.

The Cubs lost two out of three against the Reds to fall to 12-31 against Cincinnati over the last three seasons.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect eighth and Aroldis Chapman finished for his 14th save in 15 chances.

Pinch-hitter Justin Ruggiano doubled off the front of the basket in right field with two outs in the ninth. The call was upheld after Cubs manager Rick Renteria called for a review and Chapman struck out pinch-hitter Mike Olt to end the game.

Kenseth aims for 1st win of season at Kentucky
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:19 PM

Associated Press


Matt Kenseth wanted to put a road-course wreck behind him and focus on chasing his first win.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.? He hoped there were no hard feelings for the accident before the Sprint Cup series shifted this weekend to Kentucky Speedway.

Earnhardt blamed himself for an incident that wrecked Kenseth at Sonoma and was apologetic on the radio. The longtime friends and on-track rivals appeared to smooth any lingering ill feelings about the incident with a chat Tuesday.

Earnhardt, who finished third on the road course, jumped a curb and sent Kenseth’s car into a tire barrier. Kenseth’s race was spoiled and he earned his first DNF of the season.

“I’m sure it was just a mistake,” Kenseth said. “I mean, part of the thing is the way the racing is today, it’s much more entertaining to watch, especially road courses. You’re running side by side with those 2-wide restarts and you run 2-wide at a track that’s really made to run single file, it’s very small and a lot of marbles, and there’s really only one good lane through there.”

Kenseth said earlier this week he was surprised he had not heard from Earnhardt following the race. Earnhardt used Twitter to note he finally did chat with Kenseth.

Coming off a 7-win season, Kenseth is winless and is fourth in the points standings, knowing he needs at least one victory to bolster his bid for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field. Kenseth is the defending race winner at Kentucky Speedway.

“As far as the urgency to get a win, yeah, you want to get one,” Kenseth added. “In this new format you really need at least a win and be up in the top 30 to really feel confident about being in the Chase.”

CASTRONEVES REDEMPTION: IndyCar ends a 3-week hiatus with a doubleheader weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston.

Last year, a bump on turn one turned the event and points standings upside down. Points leader Helio Castroneves bottomed out in the second race on that turn, destroying his gearbox and ending a weekend that saw his 49-point lead vanish.