INDIANAPOLIS — At an eerily empty Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Takuma Sato snatched a second Indianapolis 500 victory in an odd and unsatisfying finish to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Sato held off Scott Dixon and won under caution after teammate Spencer Pigot crashed with five laps remaining in Sunday’s race, run in front of empty grandstands for the first time in 104 runnings because of the pandemic.
Pigot needed medical attention on the track, the crash scene was a massive debris field and the cleanup time would have been lengthy. There were also just four laps left in the race, not really enough time to allow for a proper restart.
If it had been a NASCAR race, a stoppage would have been immediate to set up a final shootout. IndyCar tends to avoid gimmicks and a late red-flag in the 2014 Indy 500 incensed purists.
Dixon, the five-time IndyCar champion who had dominated the race, asked on his radio if IndyCar was going to give the drivers a final shootout.
“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”
The answer was no, turning the end of the race into a game of what-ifs.
“Its a little silly to predict what might have happened. The reality is Takuma won,” said winning car owner Bobby Rahal. “This isnt the first 500 to be flagged under yellow and there was a hell of a mess out there.”
IndyCar said in a statement after the finish “there were too few laps remaining to gather the field behind the pace car, issue a red flag and then restart for a green-flag finish.”
Dixon was visibly disappointed after leading 111 of the 200 laps in pursuit of his own second Indy win.
“Definitely a hard one to swallow for sure. We had such a great day,” Dixon said. “First time I’ve seen them let it run out like that. I thought they’d throw a red.”
Dixon had figured he would ultimately run down Sato as Sato worked through lapped traffic, and he believed Sato’s team was cutting it close on fuel. Rahal said his driver had enough gas to get to the end.
None of it mattered in the end as Sato was able to coast around the speedway then ride the lift new track owner Roger Penske installed to take the winner to an elevated victory circle. Along for the ride were Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner, and David Letterman, his mask buried in an unruly gray beard as the longtime comedian and TV host greeted Sato.
“Let me just say, if someone said to me this morning at the end of the Indianapolis 500 that Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal would be racing for the lead, I would say that’s a dream, that’s a dream come true,” Letterman said. “And I woke up and it turned out we won the Indianapolis 500.”
Sato became the first Japanese winner of the Indy 500 in 2017. Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was third behind Dixon.
Sato knew Dixon was going to be tough to beat under green.
“I know Scott was coming right through, out of turn four, he was screaming coming,” Sato said. “I had to hold him off.”
The celebration was somewhat muted as the RLL team had a socially distanced winner’s circle. Penske was forced to host his first 500 as owner of the iconic speedway without fans and it made the largest venue in the world eerily quiet. The speedway typically draws more than 300,000 spectators on race day; Penske said there would be only 2,500 in attendance Sunday.
It was Pigot, the third Rahal driver, whose crash set up the controversial finish. His nasty hit destroyed his car and he was prone on the track being treated before he was taken to a hospital for further examination. IndyCar said he was awake and alert.
The Sato win helped Honda snap Chevrolet’s two-year Indy 500 winning streak. Santino Ferrucui finished fourth as Honda took the fist four spots.
Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden was fifth, the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver and best of the four-car Team Penske group. Chevrolet lagged behind Honda in speed the entire buildup to the 500 and had just one driver start in the front nine.
Mired in traffic, the Chevy group never contended.
No one did, really, as Dixon seemed to have it under control after casually passing pole-sitter Marco Andretti in the first turn of the first lap and pulling away. Andretti was seeking to end the 51-year losing streak for his famous family and had a shot with the first Andretti pole in 33 years. After Dixon took command, Andretti slid back into the field and ultimately finished 13th.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., finished seventh, while Dalton Kellett of Stouffville, Ont., placed 31st.
Fernando Alonso, attempting to win the final leg of motorsports’ version of the Triple Crown, was 21st and never contended. This was his third attempt at winning Indy and the two-time Formula One champion is returning to that series in 2021.
Anthony Davis hits buzzer-beater as Lakers grab 2-0 lead over Nuggets – Sportsnet.ca
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anthony Davis has never been this deep in the playoffs, never had the chance to take such an important shot.
It’s nothing new for the Los Angeles Lakers, though.
So when Davis’ 3-pointer swished through the net as time expired to give the Lakers a 105-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, coach Frank Vogel thought of a Laker who had done it before.
“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Vogel said. “To me, AD coming off, just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it’s a Mamba shot.”
The Lakers were wearing their black Mamba jerseys. They were co-designed by Bryant, their Hall of Fame guard who died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash. Davis said wearing the jerseys that mean so much to the team made his winner feel even better.
“In the jersey we wore tonight, it just makes it even more special,” he said.
Davis finished with 31 points. He scored Los Angeles’ last 10 points and had 22 in the second half to help the Lakers avoid becoming the latest victim of a Denver comeback.
“Special moment for a special player. Happy to be a part of it,” said LeBron James, who had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
The Nuggets had trailed by as much as 16, but Nikola Jokic scored 11 straight Denver points down the stretch, including a basket that made it 103-102 with 20 seconds to play.
Alex Caruso then missed a 3-pointer and Jamal Murray blocked Danny Green’s shot out of bounds with 2.1 seconds to play. Rajon Rondo inbounded under the basket and found Davis curling toward the sideline, and the All-Star forward swished it to put the Lakers halfway to the NBA Finals.
Jokic said there was miscommunication on the final play, when it appeared centre Mason Plumlee let Davis drift free believing there was going to be a switch. Jokic raced out to him, but too late.
“Great players make great shots and he did it, so he’s a really good player,” Jokic said.
Jokic had 30 points and nine assists, and Murray scored 25 points.
Game 3 is Tuesday night.
James carried the Lakers early, with 20 points in the first half. But they went more in the second half to Davis, who had 37 in an easy Game 1 victory.
This one was much tighter and appeared it would be another huge rally by the Nuggets, who were down 16, 19 and 12 in the final three games against the Clippers, when they erased a 3-1 deficit.
They had climbed all the way out this hole when Murray scored for an 87-86 lead with 7:26 to play. But Green and Rondo hit 3-pointers and, after a basket by PJ Dozier, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made another 3 to make it 95-89.
It was 100-92 after another 3 by Davis before Jokic answered with nine straight, tipping in a miss by Murray to give Denver a 101-100 edge with 31 seconds to play. Davis put the Lakers back on top with a basket in the lane, but Jokic backed him down on the other end to put the Nuggets back on top with 20 seconds remaining.
James started 5 of 6 while the rest of the Lakers missed their first 12 shots before Green’s layup 7 1/2 minutes in gave them a 14-12 lead.
The lead was five midway through the second quarter before the Lakers had an 11-0 run that featured a steal and dunk and a 3-pointer by Alex Caruso that pushed it to 52-36 with about 4 minutes remaining in the half. Denver trimmed it to 60-50 at the break.
Nuggets: Denver is 8-8 in this post-season. … Michael Porter Jr. had 15 points. … Dozier was 1 for 5 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
Lakers: Los Angeles missed nine of its first 10 shots. … Green and Caldwell-Pope both scored 11 points.
The Lakers said Davis was just the seventh Laker to make a buzzer-beater in the playoffs, a list that includes playoffs. Also on the list: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry and Metta World Peace.
This was the 30th post-season game between the Lakers and Nuggets. The Lakers lead 23-7 and have won all six series.
Pogacar rides to victory at COVID-defying Tour de France – Sportsnet.ca
PARIS — In a stunning performance for the ages, Tour de France rookie Tadej Pogacar won cycling’s showpiece race Sunday on the eve of his 22nd birthday, becoming the second-youngest winner of the 117-year-old event that this year braved — and overcame — France’s worsening coronavirus epidemic.
Turning him from promising prodigy into cycling superstar, Pogacar became the youngest winner since World War II and the first from Slovenia.
His victory was remarkable, too, for the way in which he sealed it: at the last possible moment, on the penultimate stage before Sunday’s finish on Paris’ Champs-Elysees. During the three-week cycling marathon over all five of France’s mountain ranges and 3,482 punishing kilometres (2,164 miles), Pogacar held the race lead and its iconic yellow jersey for just one stage — the last and most important one into Paris, with a yellow bike to match.
Pogacar KO’d the race and Slovenian countryman Primoz Roglic by snatching away the yellow jersey that he’d worn for 11 days, in a high-drama time trial Saturday.
Their 1-2 is the first for one country since British riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome also took the top spots at the 2012 Tour. Australian Richie Porte rounded out this year’s podium, at age 35, after his brilliant time trial that hoisted him from fourth to third overall.
Irish rider Sam Bennett won the prestigious final sprint on the Champs-Elysees, giving him his second stage win at this Tour. He also won the race’s green jersey, awarded for picking up the most points in sprints during and at the finish of stages.
With jets trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke above the riders as they raced on the Champs-Elysees, lined with French tricolour flags, the Tour was also celebrating a victory — over the coronavirus.
When the race, delayed because of the epidemic from its usual spot in July, left the start town of Nice three weeks ago, it was unsure that riders would be able to stay virus-free to the finish.
But none of the 176 riders who started, or the 146 finishers, tested positive in multiple batteries of tests, validating the bubble measures put in place by Tour organizers to shield them from infection.
Roadside fans still cheered them on, mostly respecting riders’ pleas that they wear face masks, but were kept well away at stage starts and finishes.
The only COVID-19 positives touched a handful of team employees and the race director, even as infection numbers soared across the country.
The director was back after a week of self-isolation and, in a mask, signalled the start of Sunday’s stage at Mantes-La-Jolie west of Paris with a wave of his flag through the sunroof of his car.
Mask-wearing spectators waiting for the rumble of the riders’ arrival on the handlebar-shaking cobbles of the Champs-Elysees said holding the Tour had lit up a dark year and demonstrated that the coronavirus need not bring all life to a grinding halt, if health measures are respected. The famous boulevard lacked its usual fervour, a victim of the virus, with the usually rows-deep crowds limited to a socially distanced maximum of 5,000 people, clumped in pens by police and barriers.
But Pauline Bourbonnaud, a 22-year-old podiatry student, said it was nothing short of “an exploit, enormous” that the Tour succeeded in keeping riders virus-free. At previous Tours, she’d been roadside when they zoomed through her region in central France. But this year’s postponement to September, when she was back in Paris for her studies, allowed her to soak in the finish for the first time.
“It’s important to have events like this that are diverting. People needed the Tour after a year like this,” she said.
One of the most enthusiastic backers of the pandemic-defying Tour was also its most powerful: French President Emmanuel Macron. With his government trying to revive France’s COVID-battered economy, Macron praised the race as “the pride of the country” and an example of how it must learn to live with the virus and the restrictions it imposes.
“Even in September, the Tour de France is magic!” Macron tweeted Saturday after Pogacar crushed Roglic in the time trial.
Largely deprived of racing as the epidemic tore across the globe, and with those in lockdown only able to keep fit on home trainers, riders arrived at the Tour somewhat race-rusty but with the pent-up energy of caged hounds, their disrupted seasons reconfigured to make them peak physically on cycling’s biggest stage.
After a slow-burn start, with multiple crashes, the racing became increasingly furious. Roglic, the winner of last year’s Spanish Vuelta and a pre-Tour favourite, was backed by a powerful Jumbo-Visma team of star riders devoted to putting him in yellow — achieved on Stage 9 — and then keeping the prized jersey until Paris.
But UAE Team Emirates rider Pogacar hadn’t read their script.
He first demolished Roglic’s 57-second lead and then built his own Tour-securing margin of 59 seconds in the time trial, an incredible reversal of fortunes.
The birth of the Pogacar supernova is now set to ripple across the cycling galaxy for years to come. His future rivals are unlikely to repeat Jumbo-Visma’s mistake of allowing him to ride his way back into contention, as he did after losing time in crosswinds in the first week, when he slumped from third to 16th.
By conquering the Tour on his first attempt, Pogacar joined an elite club of rookie winners that includes, among others, the great Eddy Merckx, who ended up winning five. He unseated Egan Bernal, who was 22 when he won last year, as the Tour’s youngest champion since World War II. And he become the race’s second-youngest winner ever, behind only Henri Cornet, who was just shy of 20 when he was crowned in 1904.
The lone Canadian in the race, Hugo Houle, a support rider for the Astana Pro Team, finished 47th. The 29-year-old from Sainte-Perpetue, Que., finished 91st in last year’s Tour.
JONES: Gary Bettman sings praises for Edmonton as Hub City – Edmonton Sun
Article content continued
“I think we need a better sense of when we’re going to get to normalcy before we can commit to any dates.
“As it relates to the World Juniors, I think part of the announcement was an indication from the Oilers organization was what they learned from working with us helped make them a better candidate and a more viable candidate for the world juniors and to whatever extent we can be helpful to making the world junior championships a success, we would of course be willing to do that.
“The cooperation and the expertise we got from the organization that you have here in Edmonton was a critical element in making the logistics of this work and in making this building work as everybody envisioned it could because it’s world class, state-of-the-art. We’re grateful of that support and anything we can do to replay it, you know we will.”
The session that included Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly who Bettman maintained to be the man who actively headed the entire operation, went on for more than an hour. It included a endless parade of reporters asking about next season and Bettman and Daly taking turns on answering them that they had no idea.
“Anything that anybody suggests or reads or writes or commentates about next season is nothing more than speculation,” said Bettman.
“Dec. 1 has always been a notional date. I will not be surprised if it slips into later December. It could slip into January. There’s still too much we don’t know.
“Nobody can tell me whether or not the border between Canada and the United States is going to be open by a date certain. Nobody can tell me what the state of COVID-19 is going to be. Nobody can tell me whether we can have either socially distanced or occupied buildings,” said Bettman.
He did say his intention is still to play a full 82-game schedule, plus playoffs.
One thing for sure, Gary Bettman and the NHL have so far come out of this looking brlliant.
And just for fun, because Bettman has come to have a sense of humor about it, maybe he should get Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer to put on some canned crowd noise of the fans booing, just to make it feel normal when he presents the Cup.
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