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Pucker up! NASCAR returns to Brickyard
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

Associated Press

 

INDIANAPOLIS — Dale Jarrett loved his win so much he had to celebrate it with a kiss.

His impromptu smooch with the bricks in 1996 has blossomed into a tradition for drivers of all series when they win at the famed Brickyard. It’s time to pucker up again: NASCAR runs its 21st Sprint Cup race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jarrett started a love affair that lasts to this day and has crossed racing series all the way to the Indianapolis 500. Back in ‘96, Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott kneeled down and planted a big ol’ kiss on the bricks that serve as the start-finish line at the venerable speedway.

“It’s something I would like to take all the credit for,” said Jarrett, who also won in 1999.

Winners of the Indy 500 usually drink milk after the race. Jarrett and Parrott had discussed the idea for a new celebration at a track steeped in history should they win the race. But by the time Jarrett grabbed the checkered flag in only NASCAR’s second year at the track, he forgot about sealing the win with a kiss.

Like a good crew chief, Parrott again made the right call.

“Todd grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, remember what we talked about?’ It wasn’t until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little different,” Jarrett recalled. “We hadn’t told any of the crew or anything like that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the yard of bricks.”

And now, every driver from Ryan Newman (last year’s Brickyard winner) to Ryan Hunter-Reay (this year’s Indy 500 winner) kneel down and plant one on the row of bricks.

“It’s pretty cool now to see that every race winner and their teams,” Jarrett added. “Of course it’s a lot more orchestrated now than what it was at that time because we took everybody by surprise. But to even see the guys that win the Indy 500 go out and be a part of it, it’s pretty cool to know you started a tradition that will probably carry on for a long time.”

It’s just a small slice of what makes racing at Indy so special. The Brickyard may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR’s schedule — the Daytona 500 is still No. 1 — but it’s close.

 
Bengals CB Hall cleared to practice
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

Associated Press

 

CINCINNATI — Cornerback Leon Hall jogged toward the right side of the defense and took his customary place, matched against receiver Mohamed Sanu. The play was a handoff, so Hall didn’t have to do much.

That’s not what mattered.

Hall lined up for the first 11-on-11 play in the Bengals’ first practice of training camp on Thursday, an encouraging sign for one of the NFL’s top defenses.

“It means a lot,” Hall said.

The 29-year-old cornerback tore his right Achilles tendon midway through last season, the second time he’s sustained such an injury. He tore his left Achilles in 2011 but was back as the starter the following year and played very well.

He’s made another quick and full recovery.

“There was never really a doubt in my mind,” Hall said. “It was just trying to be patient enough to go through that long process again.”

Even though he’s fine physically, Hall hasn’t been able to be on the field during offseason workouts, so he’s still got a lot of work to do on his form. At one point during the afternoon practice, he went to the sideline and worked on his side-to-side movement.

“I felt good,” he told reporters after practice. “No pain. I felt strong. My footwork wasn’t very good but that’s going to come in a few days.”

 
AP source: Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

By TOM WITHERS

Associated Press

 

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns may soon learn whether they’ll have Josh Gordon this season.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver will have an appeal hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

The game-breaking playmaker is facing a possible 1-year ban for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for at least the third time. Gordon, who had a history of marijuana abuse in college, was suspended for the first two games last season. He still led the NFL with 1,646 yards receiving.

The 23-year-old player is expected to report to training camp today and he’ll be on the field Saturday as the Browns have their first practice under new coach Mike Pettine.

The Browns have been patiently waiting for a resolution on Gordon’s playing status and his uncertain future has left a cloud over the team. The Browns first learned of a potential extended suspension on the second day of the NFL draft in May. The ESPN report doused the optimism created after the Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since 1999, drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel.

On Wednesday, Pettine told the AP he’s not consumed with worry about whether he’ll have Gordon.

 
It’s crunch time for the Ryder Cup
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:07 PM

Associated Press

 

HOYLAKE, England — The end of the British Open means the Ryder Cup is getting closer and there are a couple of regulars still not in the team.

That starts with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

They both have two tournaments remaining before qualifying ends at the PGA Championship. The top nine earn automatic spots on the U.S. team that goes to Scotland at the end of September to try to win back the cup.

Tom Watson has three captain’s picks.

Woods will have to rely on a captain’s pick unless he finishes at least third at the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. Mickelson has more realistic chance. He is the equivalent of $198,056 in earnings behind Zach Johnson in the No. 9 spot and money counts double at the PGA Championship.

The Open went a long way toward sewing up a few spots on the team. Rickie Fowler, a runner-up at Hoylake, moved up to No. 3 and locked up a spot. Jim Furyk, who closed with a 65 to finish alone in fourth, moved up to No. 4 and can expect to be at Gleneagles. Right behind him is Dustin Johnson, with Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar trailing. The top seven look pretty solid barring some really bad play, or the right combination behind them winning.

Where it gets tight is at the bottom. Only $430,275 separates Jason Dufner at No. 8 from Webb Simpson at No. 15. Of the next five players behind Zach Johnson, Mickelson is the only one with Ryder Cup experience.

In dire need of some good finishes are Keegan Bradley (No. 16), Brandt Snedeker (No. 28) and Hunter Mahan (No. 34).

Snedeker and Mahan are playing the Canadian Open this week.

AMERICAN FALL: American golfers suddenly have their work cut out for them to get back toward the top of the world ranking.

Justin Rose of England won at Congressional. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland won the British Open and Sergio Garcia of Spain was a runner-up. And just like that, there are no Americans among the top five for the first time since the end of 2011.

Adam Scott of Australia remains No. 1, with McIlroy at No. 2. Henrik Stenson (Sweden) is No. 3, followed by Rose and Garcia. That’s one Aussie and four Europeans atop the world ranking. Americans do occupy five of the next six spots — Bubba Watson is the highest-ranked American at No. 6 — and they have 11 in the top 20.

 
Tony Stewart initially opposed stock cars at Indy
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:06 PM

Associated Press

 

INDIANAPOLIS — Drivers always say there’s something magical about Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the opportunity for NASCAR to race there opened the door for one of Jeff Gordon’s most treasured victories.

It was a race Tony Stewart initially opposed.

Stewart, a die-hard open-wheel driver at the time of the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, was one of the many IMS loyalists who firmly believed NASCAR did not belong on the hallowed grounds of the speedway. The Indiana native had grown up dreaming of one day winning the Indy 500. Until 1994, it was the only big race.

“I was one of them that absolutely thought it was a crime,” Stewart recalled. “I’m a purist. I’m old school. It’s always been sacred ground to me.”

He wasn’t in Indy when NASCAR made his debut and had to watch the race later on a replay.

Stewart’s mind was instantly changed.

“There were other people that I knew that were dead against it that went just to see what it was going to be like and they came back and felt the same way,” he said. “I think everybody changed their mind and their opinion after they saw that first one.”

The 20th anniversary of NASCAR’s first race at Indy is Sunday, when Gordon will go for his fifth Brickyard win.

A California native, Gordon moved to Indiana before high school to race around the Midwest. Like Stewart, he was enamored with Indy but his path into NASCAR made him believe he’d never get a shot to race at the speedway, which has been home to the Indy 500 since 1911.

Then the speedway opened its gates to NASCAR and a 23-year-old Gordon won the inaugural event. It was only his second career victory but remains one of the biggest in a career of 89 wins and four championships.

“My love for Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 goes way back to when I was racing in California and I was racing open wheel cars on an oval,” he explained. “Sprint cars were what I looked up to and what I loved to watch as a kid. The drivers were my heroes. The (Indy 500) was one that I always put on the calendar that I was going to watch. I always wanted to race there and to get that opportunity, especially an opportunity to win, it just is a way to live out a childhood dream.”

 
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