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Keselowski holds off Johnson to capture Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600.

Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining.

Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson — retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season — on the bottom ahead of Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney.

Keselowski got the push to get into clean air and denied Johnson a victory. Keselowski celebrated as he usually does by waving a giant American flag out his window during his victory burnouts.

“I feel like I have thrown this race away a handful of times and I thought we were going to lose it today,” Keselowski said. “I have lost it the way Chase lost it and it really stinks. And today we finally won it that way.”

It is the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002.

Johnson had to settle for second in a Chevrolet, while Elliott, who had the victory snatched away just two laps from the finish, rallied to third for Hendrick to take two podium positions.

Elliott had a comfortable lead and was coasting to the win when Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron spun with a tire problem.

“That’s got to be a joke,” Elliott said over his radio.

Elliott was wrecked by Kyle Busch last week trying to race for the win at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday night.

The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar.

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1’s schedule and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.

NASCAR was able to go forward for its third Cup event in seven days under a health plan approved by state officials that allowed the sport to resume after a 10-week hiatus. NASCAR ran three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.

A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of Keselowski’s car.

Source:- TSN

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Jets back on ice for 1st official practice since NHL suspended play in March – CBC.ca

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The Winnipeg Jets are getting their skating legs back in shape with the NHL’s abbreviated season set to resume in 2½ weeks.

Players took to the ice Monday at the Bell MTS Iceplex for the first official practice since the season was paused March 12 due to COVID-19. At the time, there were still 189 games remaining on the NHL’s schedule.

Training camps across the league were opening as part of Phase 3 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan, which dives right into the playoffs.

“It’s a good idea because I’m a hockey fan and I’m going nuts,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice on Monday.

“It’s the middle of July, I didn’t get to see playoffs, I want to see it.”

The NHL announced earlier in spring that, if possible, it would complete the season by bringing back 24 of its 31 teams — 12 from each of the Eastern and Western conferences — based on the standings when the shutdown occurred.

Pucks will drop on Aug. 1, with a number of games taking place throughout the day in two host cities: Toronto and Edmonton.

Winnipeg Jets players listen in to coach Paul Maurice during training camp on Monday. (Winnipeg Jets)

The Jets will head to Edmonton and take on the Calgary Flames. They play Aug. 1, 3 and 4, and — if needed — are scheduled for the 6 and 8 as well.

Maurice said the Jets’ organization has gone “above and beyond” the minimum standards in terms of assuring the safety of players returning to the city, of staff and of the community.

“We have a responsibility, first to our health, I get that, but also we’re entertainers, right? People want to watch hockey, they want to see it, so that’s our job, and we have a responsibility to do our job.”

Playoff format

The league’s playoff format in this shortened season gives a bye to the top four teams from each conference. They will go straight to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The next eight teams from each conference will play a best-of-5 series, with the winners advancing to the playoffs. The losing teams will return to their summer break.

The Jets-Flames matchup is the only all-Canadian series of the qualifying round.

The four top teams in each conference will play each other once to determine the order of the seeding for the first round of the playoffs. All playoff series after the qualifiers will be best-of-7.

‘Take it out of the garage a little bit slowly’

Following Monday’s workout, Maurice said there was some rust on the players but not much.

“We wanted to take it out of the garage a little bit slowly. But the key thing I took away from today is … they wanted to be on the ice. They ran the routes. They did the drill exactly the way it was designed. They had a little bit of fun, they worked hard.

“They look like they want to be here, they look like they want to play.”

Fans will not be allowed to attend any of the games but the league has been talking about using recorded crowd noise and even cardboard cutouts of people to fill the empty seats. 

Jets super fan Jeff Baquiran says it’s a peculiar experience to watch the Jets in August, but he’s looking forward to it. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Superfan Jeff Baquiran may see a video of himself beamed into the empty rink, lounging outside while carrying a mug in the shape of the Stanley Cup. 

He said watching hockey in August may look like it does in that video.

“If it means bringing the TV outside to watch it, so be it, or if I have to sit outside and have the TV in the front window there then whatever it takes,” he said.

Winnipeg bars are looking forward to welcoming throngs of Jets fans again.

Ahnissa Martens, assistant general manager at Underdogs, is looking forward to the return of Jets games, which are big business for the St. James sports bar. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Ahnissa Martens, assistant general manager at Underdogs, said she knows all the regulars by name and the Jets keep coming up in conversation.

“We have a lot of regular clientele and it is something we talk about all the time, how they miss the Jets,” she said.

Martens said she feels their pain, as she’s had nothing to watch during the last few months of COVID-19.

“I think it will definitely … be a distraction of everything else that’s going on.”

Whiteout parties could make a comeback

Though public health officials likely won’t want to see thousands of fans storm the streets to cheer on the Jets, Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Brent Roussin said Monday that “there’s probably a possibility of having a decent-sized gathering.”

Manitoba has gone 13 days in a row without reporting a new case of COVID-19, and the province’s active case count is down to one as of Monday morning.

Right now, public health rules only allow up to 100 people to gather together outside. Although, Roussin noted, “you could cohort to get to that maximum of that 30 per cent capacity for the area.”

He later said that public health officials are looking at further relaxing the limit on outdoor gathering sizes.

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Leafs star Auston Matthews confirms he tested positive for COVID-19 – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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TORONTO – Auston Matthews felt safe in Arizona – until he wasn’t.

The star centre for the Toronto Maple Leafs confirmed Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19 last month in his home state.

Matthews shared the news as the team opened training camp ahead of the NHL’s restart after the league was shut down by the novel coronavirus back in March.

“Yea, I did,” the 22-year-old said on a video conference call following practice when asked about the initial report by The Toronto Sun. “(It) didn’t really enter my training. I was able to do stuff at home, obviously wasn’t able to leave or skate or anything.

“That’s really the only thing that took a hit for me. I was skating beforehand, and having to take 2 1/2, three weeks off the ice catches up to you, but pretty much asymptomatic, felt for the most part pretty normal for the two weeks. I did my quarantine and I’m feeling healthy now, so it’s all good.”

The Sun first reported June 19 that Matthews contracted the virus while at home in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was in quarantine.

The Leafs declined to confirm the report at the time, citing the privacy of players’ medical records.

Arizona is among the U.S. states that has seen a recent spike in positive tests for the novel coronavirus.

“It was not a hot spot for like two months,” Matthews said. “It was like the safest place to be and then obviously things flipped pretty quickly there. I don’t really find it too different than it is here. Lots of stuff, for the most part, closed other than outside seating and essential services.”

Leafs winger Mitch Marner said he learned of the positive test the same way fans did, and immediately texted his friend and teammate.

“This (virus) is not a joke and something you can’t take lightly,” said the 23-year-old. “He was feeling well and not really feeling (many) of the symptoms.

“It’s great to have him back out there.”

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said hearing the news was a reality check.

“That happened right around a time when it started to hit the NHL in general with bigger numbers, and it was right there,” said the rookie bench boss. “That was just a bit of a bump to all of us in terms of paying attention to the protocols, taking this very seriously.

“That really allowed everybody to just kind of tighten up and make sure we were doing all the right things to stay healthy ourselves and then of course making sure that we’re doing our part to keep our room healthy and keep everybody that comes in healthy so that we can continue to work towards a safe return.”

Matthews, who isn’t able to pinpoint where or how he got the virus, finished the regular season tied for second in the NHL with 47 goals to go along with 80 points in 70 games.

The Leafs are set to open a best-of-five playoff qualification series with Columbus on Aug. 2 in Toronto.

The NHL has updated its COVID-19 numbers, stating 30 players tested positive during the voluntary Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan from June 8 through Sunday. Another 13 tested positive outside of the league’s protocol.

The NHL added that over 600 players reported to their club’s training facilities for Phase 2 – which featured players training in small groups at their teams’ facilities – and that 4,934 COVID-19 tests were administered.

Despite his own personal experience, Matthews said he believes the league’s 24-team restart can succeed.

“The NHL and everybody have tried their best with the information that they have to make it as safe as an environment as possible.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2020.

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Indians, other teams pressured after Redskins drop nickname – Sportsnet.ca

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CLEVELAND — The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians.

Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity.

Along with the Indians, who recently announced they are in the early stages of evaluating a name change for the first time in 105 years, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are among those facing backlash along with the potential of sponsors pulling their financial support.

For some, the time has come for widespread changes to sports nicknames, mascots and symbols as the country reckons with its legacy of racism.

“I understand people aren’t willing to change or so quickly, or they’re hoping this moment is going to pass. It’s not,” said activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole from Oklahoma. ”And now that we’ve gotten what we needed on the Redskins side, we’re going to start working on the rest of them. We’re not going to let up.”

On Monday, Washington announced it was dropping a nickname that had been in place since 1933 and had grown into an embarrassing scar for the NFL franchise. The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams’s stadium, as well as other groups.

Indians manager Terry Francona acknowledged having “mixed emotions” about the Redskins’ situation.

“I’m glad to see that they’re acting on it,” he said Monday night. “Also, I think that it was probably financially driven. … You can’t always do things when the timing is right, when it’s convenient. That’s kind of how I feel about this. I hope that our organization will lead as opposed to follow.”

While the debate over the Redskins’ nickname was waged for years, the drastic change came just two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, who once said he would never change the team’s moniker, said the franchise would undergo a “thorough review” before its next move.

Cleveland’s situation is different from Washington’s on several fronts.

First, the Indians are not feeling heat from any corporate sponsors. At least not publicly.

When the Redskins announced their review earlier this month, the Indians released a statement within hours of Washington’s that said, “we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

The Indians didn’t promise to change their nickname. But it would be hard to imagine them going through a detailed evaluation and deciding to stick with a nickname that Native American groups have condemned for years as degrading and racist.

Cleveland showed a willingness to rebrand itself when it pulled the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo off its game jerseys and caps. While the red-faced, toothy caricature remains a presence on some team merchandise, its reduced status and removal from the diamond and signage around Progressive Field was applauded as a positive step.

Even if the Indians decide to drop the nickname, there are numerous other layers — trademark contracts, new logos, Major League Baseball’s approval — to work through before the change could take effect.

While the Indians seem open to a new identity, the Braves aren’t budging.

They have no plans to change their nickname, telling season-ticket holders in a letter last week that “we will always be the Atlanta Braves.” However, the team said it will review the team’s ”tomahawk chop“ chant — a tradition borrowed in the early 1990s from Florida State’s powerful football program.

The Blackhawks, too, have no plans for change, saying their name honours a Native American leader, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. The NHL team said it plans to work harder to raise awareness of Black Hawk and “the important contributions of all Native American people.”

“We’re trying to honour the logo and be respectful,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “There’s certainly a fine line between respect and disrespect, and I think we want to do an even better job. I think the most important thing is to be clear that we want to help educate. … I think we’ve done a good job, but we want to do a better job. And I think we’re committed to that as we go forward.”

Part of Atlanta’s insistence to keep a nickname the franchise brought from Milwaukee in 1966 is due to the the team’s “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and other tribal leaders it collaborates with regularly.

But as teams look to make changes, Danger and other activists will continue to push them to abandon any connection with Native Americans, who have been portrayed as mascots for generations.

“We’re being paraded around without a say in how we’re seen,” she said. “It’s a less bloody continuation of that, of us being a sideshow. It’s not hard to choose the right side of history, so I hope these teams will take that step with us, side by side, as we all work together to change the world.”

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