Winning races sure has a way of easing burdens on Junior

#1
LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a blast again, with a shared bond with his crew, comfort in his own skin as NASCARs most popular driver, even finding fun 140 characters at a time on Twitter. Winning races sure has a way of easing burdens on Junior. Earnhardt turned Brad Keselowskis trash into Victory Lane treasure, pulling away down the stretch Sunday at Pocono Raceway for his second win of the season and a secured spot in the Chase field. He paired his first career win at Pocono with his Daytona 500 championship for his first multi-win season since 2004. "I feel like Im such a lucky guy to have this second opportunity again to be competitive," Earnhardt said. But for as strong as he ran in the No. 88 Chevrolet, Keselowski gift-wrapped this win when he yielded the lead with five laps left in a desperate attempt to clear debris from his grille and cool his overheated engine. Keselowskis gamble backfired -- he couldnt get the draft needed from the lapped traffic to clear his car and make one final pass for the win on Earnhardt. Keselowskis No. 2 Ford still had the oomph in the engine needed to finish the race, and he had his second-straight runner-up finish. "It was definitely a mistake because the engine made it," Keselowski said, rubbing his face. "It probably shouldnt have." Junior shook off the rising red gauges in the No. 88 that could have had his car meet a similar fate as Keselowski. "They were still within good reason to stand on it and give it hell," he said. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and rookie Kyle Larson completed the top five. Earnhardt gave Hendrick Motorsports three straight wins, following back-to-back victories by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson overcame a pit road accident to finish sixth. Owner Rick Hendrick texted Earnhardt before the race to let him know he would not attend and would see him next week at Michigan. Earnhardt told him, "Ill drink one for you after its over." Earnhardt stuck to his end of the deal, spraying all types of beverages in a jubilant Victory Lane. Johnson was the first driver over to congratulate him. I dont have much to do tomorrow," Earnhardt said, grinning. "Tonights going to be a long one." Earnhardt, long NASCARs most popular driver, gave the Pocono crowd plenty of reason to go wild. He was mobbed by almost 100 fans outside the Pocono media centre, screaming his name and clamouring for a picture with the winner. He waved and ducked into a waiting car, whisked away for another party. Maybe the fans should try tweeting at him to earn his attention. A reluctant participant on Twitter for years, Earnhardt warmed fast to the social media site after winning Daytona. He said he underestimated the amount of fun hed have interacting with fans. He loved the "go get ems" that dot his feed, though its the "haters" that he really feeds off. "The real short ones, like, You suck, those are the best ones," he said, smiling. "I just favourite them and block them. Its so much fun." Earnhardts second win means he is guaranteed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. He won for the 29th time in 519 career Sprint Cup starts. "When we won at Daytona, man, it made the rest of the year a lot more relaxing, a lot easier," he said. "It makes it fun because you can just go to the track and just race, not worry about points." Juniors breakthrough was more meaningful because has come in crew chief Steve Letartes final season. Letarte, who had a Pocono win with Jeff Gordon, has become one of Earnhardts best friends. That tightness off the track just may have sparked the wins on the track. "Maybe thats why him and I are such good friends, because I might be the only one in the world that doesnt wonder what its like to be Dale Junior," Letarte said. "Hes a normal guy, hes a great guy, hes a great talent. I dont have any idea what its like to be him." Earnhardt led three Hendrick drivers in the top 10; Gordon finished eighth. Johnsons bid for a third straight victory was derailed when he connected on pit road with Marcos Ambrose. Coming off wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Dover, Johnson was fifth when he pitted under yellow. Johnson hit Ambrose and spun 180-degrees, which forced him to back into his stall for more repairs. He needed two tires, had right-front damage and dropped to 29th on the restart. Busch posted his first top 10 since his win at Martinsville nine races ago. He salvaged a rough day for his team that saw fellow Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick drop from contention with various issues. Stewart held the lead and was in great position late to win until he was busted for speeding on pit road and was dropped to 31st. Harvick was running second when had tire trouble. Stewart finished 13th, Harvick 14th, and SHRs Danica Patrick was 37th after she smacked the wall with 22 laps left. All those mishaps -- and one loose wrapper -- all made it a race to remember for Earnhardt. "A year or two ago, we werent running to seize the opportunity," Earnhardt said, "and now we are." 2018 Nike Vapor Max Plus . CHAUNCEY BILLUPS (Pistons): Yes they got Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the off-season and Andre Drummond is a beast (teams are kicking themselves for passing on him - he rebounds and block shots every game - thats two more discernable and significant skills than most guys in his draft class), but dont for a second discount the impact of having a savvy veteran like Billups on your team. Nike Vapormax Plus White .C. - Alberta prop Andrew Tiedemann will captain Canada against Uruguay on Friday, the opening day of competition at the IRB Americas Rugby Championship. http://www.vapormaxplus.com/ .com) - A top-10 showdown is on tap in at the McKale Center on Saturday, as the 10th-ranked Arizona Wildcats play host to the eighth-ranked Utah Utes in a key Pac-12 matchup. Nike Vapormax Plus Sunset . Calgarys Bo Levi Mitchell and Montreals Troy Smith will be the starting quarterbacks in a CFL season-opener for the first time in their careers. Both want to reinforce their No. 1 status. You can watch the game live in the first half of a doubleheader on TSN and TSN GO at 3:00pm et/Noon pt. Nike Vapormax Plus Womens . JOHNS, N. TORONTO -- The clock was ticking down and the Toronto Raptors were clutching a one-point lead. And Kyle Lowry, the player who has so often carried them down the stretch, was in the locker-room getting treatment for a sore and swollen knee. But with DeMar DeRozan leading the way, the Raptors showed the resiliency that has become part of their makeup this season en route to a 107-103 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. "Every win is great for us right now for what were trying to do, especially with Kyle out and Amir (Johnson) out," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "Hopefully it gives our guys some confidence. . . guys who stepped in, to go where we need to go." Johnson missed all but the first three minutes with an ankle injury. DeRozan poured in 29 points, and was key in the fourth quarter, doling out a couple of assists and uncharacteristically taking a charge. "Those are the winning plays that hes learning to make and hes making now, other than just scoring," Casey said. "Hes doing a great job of scoring but theres so many other things when he plays those kinds of minutes, especially now with Kyle out, hes got to do a lot more." When he somehow cut his finger with just over three minutes to go, he continued to play despite the blood that was smeared across his shorts. "I kind of split the middle of my hand, the webbing of my hand, I didnt even notice," said DeRozan, who estimated he had four or five stitches. "I looked down and my whole hand was soaked." Jonas Valanciunas and Greivis Vasquez added 15 points apiece, and Terrence Ross finished with 14 for the Raptors (43-32). James Harden scored 26 points to top the Rockets (49-25), who were missing Dwight Howard (ankle) for the third consecutive game. Chandler Parsons added 20. Lowry missed the game after a hard knee-on-knee collision with LeBron James in the Raptors 93-83 loss to Miami two nights earlier. His X-rays were negative, so there was no structural damage. Johnson played the first three minutes but headed to the locker-room with a sore right ankle. But despite the absence of not only two of the teams top contributors but arguably its two hardest workers, the Raptors werent going to let this game slip away. With seven games to go, every game is meaningful as the Raptors fight for a favourable opponent in the post-season and homecourt advantage. Vasquez, who started at point guard, said its no surprise that DeRozan and the Raptors stepped up so well in Lowrys absence. "Its not hidden that (DeRozan and Lowry) are our leaders. We go as they go. And everybody else understands that," said Vasquez. "This is why we have a healthy locker-room, were not fighting egos, we know whats going on. Those two guys are going to score, those two guys are going to make winning plays. And whenever one of those guys goes down, weve got their back. Thats what this team is all about. "This is not a fluke. We earn wins, and we earned a win tonight." Houston, which has now dropped seven straight decisions in Toronto, was coming off a 105-96 loss the previous night at Brooklyn, and arrrived in Toronto at 3 a.ddddddddddddm. Wednesday. The Raptors led by as much as 20 points in the third against the fourth-place team in the mighty Western Conference. But they allowed the Rockets to pull within 90-80 heading into the fourth and it was during a stretch in the final 12 minutes that the Raptors really felt the absence of Lowry and Johnson. The Rockets pulled within two points with 8:45 to play but that was as close as the visitors would get, and when a wide-open Ross drained a three-pointer with four minutes to play it brought the crowd to its feet and gave Toronto a six-point lead. There were some tense moments as Houston showed some life late. Jeremy Lin drained a three-pointer to cut Torontos lead to three points with nine seconds left, but a free throw by Vasquez sealed the Raptors victory. "We are a team that is desperate for a win right now," Lin said. "Weve dropped three in a row, definitely not a good feeling. We just have to regroup. The one thing I will say is that Im proud of how hard we played but we didnt play great in terms of execution, in terms of coverage and a lot of those little things." As for Lowrys knee injury, Casey said sitting his starting guard wasnt a matter of getting him rest. Wednesdays game was one the coach really wanted to win, so if Lowry could have played, he would have. "Theres a pride factor, you want to win, you want to win a division, you want to win and try and get home court," Casey said. "Were in position, so theres no use of letting off the pedal now. Every game for me is desperate. "But its not live or die or anything like that, were not going to risk a kids health to try to do that." Lowry is averaging 17.4 points, 7.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds. Johnson, whos averaging 10.8 points and 6.8 boards, has long battled bad ankles, but the hardworking forward normally plays through the pain. The fact he left the game is worrisome. The Raptors are tied with Chicago for third in the Eastern Conference and two-and-a-half games ahead of Brooklyn. The good news is Wednesdays game was the Raptors last against a Western Conference opponent. And of the remaining games, Toronto plays last-place Milwaukee twice, and Philadelphia (second-last) once. The Raptors got off to a sloppy start, falling behind by 12 points midway through the first quarter. Toronto ended the quarter with a 12-2 run capped by a three-pointer by Vasquez and trailed 25-23 heading into the second. DeRozan led the way with 15 points in a second quarter that Toronto finish with a 13-4 run, and when the Raptors all-star drilled a 32-footer at the buzzer it sent Toronto into the dressing room with a 55-50 lead. A pair of free throws by Salmons gave the Raptors a 20-point lead -- their biggest of the game -- with just under four minutes to go in the third. But the Rockets finished with an 18-8 run to make it a 10-point game with a quarter to go. NOTES: The Raptors have another tough game Friday when they host the Indiana Pacers. The Raptors are in Milwaukee on Saturday before returning home to face the Sixers and New York Knicks. . . Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne DeRosario was at the game. ' ' '

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron