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NASCAR’s Johnson OK’d to race after 2 negative virus tests

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson has twice tested negative for the coronavirus and will race Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Johnson missed the first race of his Cup career when he tested positive last Friday. He was tested after his wife received a positive result.

Hendrick Motorsports said Johnson tested negative on Monday and Tuesday and will return to the No. 48 Chevrolet at Kentucky. NASCAR confirmed Wednesday that Johnson has been cleared to return.

“It’s been an emotional journey and I’m so happy to be back,” he tweeted.

Johnson’s streak of 663 consecutive starts — most among active drivers — was snapped when he didn’t race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Justin Allgaier replaced him at the Brickyard 400 and finished 37th after an early multi-car crash on pit road.

Johnson is the only NASCAR driver to test positive for the coronavirus since the series resumed racing on May 17. He is scheduled to retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of this season.

“My family is so grateful for the incredible love and support we’ve received over the last several days,” he said. “I especially want to thank Justin Allgaier for stepping in for me at Indy and being a true pro. I’m excited about getting back to business with my team this weekend.”

Johnson never experienced any symptoms; his wife, Chani, was tested after suffering from what she thought was routine seasonal allergies. When she received her positive result, Johnson and their two young daughters were tested. Their daughters were negative.

Hendrick Motorsports had four crew members tested for COVID-19 after Johnson’s diagnosis and all four received negative results. The No. 48 team will have its regular personnel roster for Sunday’s race.

Missing the Brickyard 400 dropped Johnson to 15th in the driver standings, 46 points above the cutoff for playoffs.

Even before Johnson’s diagnosis, Hendrick Motorsports had implemented strict protocols that include daily health screenings for employees working at team facilities. The organization works in split work schedules with stringent face covering and social distancing requirements. Hendrick has also increased its level of disinfecting and sanitizing all work areas.

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Hamlin caps marathon day of racing at Pocono with 4th win

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Round 2 at Pocono went to Denny Hamlin. Hamlin seized the spotlight, specifically in victory lane when Pocono had to set up lights after the race ended in the dark.

Hamlin topped Kevin Harvick on Sunday night to win the second Cup race of the weekend at Pocono Raceway and flip the result of the opener. The 1-2 finish out of each driver is a clear sign two of the best drivers in the game are poised again to make a championship push.

Hamlin says, bring it on.

“We just want to get to the final four with a chance,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin has four wins this season for Joe Gibbs Racing and Harvick has three for Stewart-Haas Racing as they start to separate themselves from the rest of the field.

Hamlin is racking up milestones as he chases his first NASCAR Cup championship. Hamlin has 41 victories to move to 19th on NASCAR’s career list and his sixth win at Pocono matched Jeff Gordon for most at the 2½ mile tri-oval track.

“It’s hard to believe because we went through such a dry spell there in the middle of my career,” Hamlin said about his Pocono results.

Hamlin raced to his fourth victory of the season to cap a wild, marathon day of racing at the track, with three NASCAR races and nightfall in the finale. Pocono doesn’t have lights — but the pit road numbers were lit up and glowed as Hamlin won for the second straight year at Pocono.

Hamlin had a late vibration in his No. 11 Toyota on Saturday that hindered his attempt to catch Harvick down the stretch. About 25 hours later, Hamlin surged past Harvick and built a nearly 3-second lead once the SHR driver got caught up in lapped traffic.

“Our car was actually better today than it was yesterday,” Harvick said. “We had to run in a lot of traffic there and Denny kept ticking off laps.”

The Daytona 500 champion’s victory capped the first NASCAR tripleheader at one track. The race was delayed by lightning and rain, as much a part of Pocono as a JGR driver taking the checkered flag. Gibbs’ roster has six of the last seven winners at Pocono.

“I hate to feel disappointed in a second and a first, but man, I felt like I should have won both races,” Hamlin said.

They ran six laps before the race was red-flagged nearly 51 minutes because or rain. NASCAR ran several pace laps before the race finally went green around 6:15 p.m. It was a race against darkness to complete the full 350 miles.

Harvick won Saturday’s race and put the brakes on a burnout — he had to save that engine for another run in the same No. 4 Ford. The starting lineup was inverted for Sunday’s race so Harvick started 20th.

Erik Jones was third, Chase Elliott fourth and Aric Almirola was fifth.

The rain wreaked havoc with the third NASCAR race of the day at Pocono. Brandon Jones opened the day with a win in the Truck Series race and Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity race. Pocono became the first track in NASCAR history to hold three national series races on the same day.

Harvick was a fan of the Cup doubleheader format.

“I think everybody would be super happy with a much shorter season and multiple doubleheaders,” Harvick said.

NASCAR’s hope to capitalize on being about the only major sport to run live every week with sports on pause in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has been besieged by weather issues. Sunday marked the ninth race out of 15 this season with a weather delay and three have been moved a full day. It’s hard to keep TV viewers interested when its a parade of Air Titans instead of a mad dash to the checkered flag.

Pocono is notorious for rainy weekends and in 2016 had two Cup races and an IndyCar race all washed out and run on Monday. The “Need Help or Info?” signs around the track went unneeded as the only thing in the grandstands was rain.

It put yet another damper on seven-time Jimmie Johnson’s farewell season. Johnson, a three-time winner at Pocono, was honored by the track over the weekend. Pocono painted “Jimmie” on one side of the start/finish line, added a painted “48 Jimmie Johnson” rock to their infield collection of race legends, and his two young daughters gave the command for the driver’s to start their engines. He finished 16th.

But he also gave some inspiration to Hamlin.

“Maybe one day I’ll get one of those black rocks they’ve got here for all those good guys that have won it,” Hamlin said.

He might get the rock, esepcially if he can pass Hall of Famer Gordon. The 39-year-old Hamlin feels he has plenty of time and talent left in the tank to set that mark.

“I don’t think this is the last one,” Hamlin said.

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NASCAR: Noose found in Bubba Wallace garage at Alabama race

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — NASCAR has launched an investigation after a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the elite Cup Series who just two weeks ago successfully pushed the stock car series to ban the Confederate flag at its venues.

NASCAR said the noose was found on Sunday afternoon and vowed to do everything possible to find who was responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.”

“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the series said in a statement. “As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”

On Twitter, Wallace said the “the despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”

“As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you,’” he wrote. “ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”

The noose was discovered on the same day NASCAR’s fledgling flag ban faced its biggest challenge. The ban took effect before last week’s race near Miami, but there were only about 1,000 military members admitted into that race.

At Talladega, in the heart of the South, as many as 5,000 fans were allowed in, even though rain postponed the race until Monday and visitors were barred from the infield. No flags were spotted Sunday, but cars and pickup trucks driving along nearby roads were flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway over the weekend. A small plane flew over the track Sunday pulling a banner with the flag and the words “Defund NASCAR.”

Wallace’s 2013 victory in a Truck Series race was only the second in a NASCAR national series by an Black driver (Wendell Scott, 1963) and helped push him into the Cup Series, where he drives the No. 43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and is forced to scramble for sponsorship dollars.

Wallace, a 26-year-old Alabama native, said he has found support among fellow drivers for his stance on the flag. He noted that in his tweet after the noose announcement.

“Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage,” he said. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”

NASCAR has spent years trying to distance itself from the Confederate flag, long a part of its moonshine-running roots from the its founding more than 70 years ago. Five years ago, former chairman Brian France tried to ban flying the flags at tracks, a proposal that was not enforced and largely ignored.

This year was different and it was Wallace who led the charge. Over the past month as the nation has been roiled by social unrest largely tied to the death of George Floyd, Wallace wore a black T-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” at one race and had a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme at another.

Wallace, whose father is white, was not always outspoken about racism; even after Floyd was killed last month while in police custody in Minneapolis, he was not the first driver to speak out for racial equality. He has said he began to find his public voice on racism after watching video in May of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting in Georgia. He said he now recognizes he must not let his platform as a prominent driver go to waste.

NBA star LeBron James tweeted his support to Wallace, calling the noose “sickening!”

“ Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete,” James wrote. “I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!”

Talladega is one of the more raucous stops on the NASCAR schedule, but the coronavirus pandemic prompted the series, like all sports, to ban or sharply limit fans for months. The scene this weekend was a dramatic departure from the Talladega norm with plenty of room for social distancing and fans asked to wear masks.

David Radvansky, 32, of suburban Atlanta showed up Sunday with his wife and boys, 3 and 6. Radvansky, who started coming to Talladega in the 1990s when his father parked cars at races, applauded NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag.

“I don’t think there’s a place for it in NASCAR, to be honest with you,” the 32-year-old said. “That doesn’t sit well with all the good ole boys but it is what it is.”

Across from the track, Ed Sugg’s merchandise tent was flying Confederate flags prominently in a display alongside Trump 2020 banners and an American flag.

“People are disappointed that NASCAR has taken that stance. It’s been around for as long as all of us have been,” said Sugg, a Helena, Alabama, resident who has been selling wares at NASCAR races for 21 years.

“I don’t think anybody really connects it to any kind of racism or anything,” he said. “It’s just a Southern thing. It’s transparent. It’s just a heritage thing.”

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Formula 1 cancels races in Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan

Formula One races in Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japan were canceled on Friday because of issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s governing body said it still hopes to deliver up to 18 races in the rearranged 2020 season, with the first eight already confirmed starting with a double-header in Austria in early July.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was due to be rescheduled after the postponement of its original race date on June 7, while the Singapore Grand Prix was scheduled for Sept. 20.

Both use street circuits, and the FIA said the long lead times required to construct them “made hosting the events during a period of uncertainty impossible.”

The Japanese Grand Prix, scheduled for Oct. 11, was canceled because of ongoing travel restrictions during the pandemic.

“We are confident in our plans to have between 15-18 races by the time our season concludes in Abu Dhabi in mid-December,” the FIA said, adding that it expects to publish the finalized calendar before the season-opening race in Austria on July 5.

The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg also will host a race on July 12. The next race will be in Hungary on July 19, followed by consecutive races at the British GP in Silverstone on Aug. 2 and 9 after the British government exempted elite sports from its current quarantine on foreign visitors.

Further races are scheduled for Spain on Aug. 16 and Belgium on Aug. 30, with Italy completing the European swing on Sept. 6.

No spectators will be allowed to attend the opening eight races. This may change later in the season if health conditions allow.

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Flag ban fallout: Now comes the tricky part for NASCAR

Reese Witherspoon tweeted a high-five emoji for her A-list stamp of approval that NASCAR banned the Confederate flag.

NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its races and venues grabbed headlines and stars like Witherspoon and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara were quick to praise the stock car series for ridding itself of a symbol long associated with slavery and racism.

Kamara tweeted as the laps ticked off — he requested NASCAR send him a car so he can take a spin — and the sport suddenly had a slew of new, energized fans.

Now comes the tricky part.

In a matter of days, NASCAR will be faced with a daunting question: How to enforce the ban at its sprawling, rowdy tracks once fans are allowed back in and campers start setting up their RVs for race weekends? Approximately 1,000 members of the military will be allowed into Sunday’s race near Miami and become the first fans at a NASCAR event since the pandemic shut down sports in March.

The enforcement question is much more likely to be an issue when the series holds races June 20-21 at Talladega, Alabama, where up to 5,000 fans are expected to be allowed in. Flags are a common sight at the superspeedway in the heart of NASCAR’s Southern base. NASCAR will work to develop protocols around enforcement, though it’s not known where the ban ends? Will security be tasked with policing every Rebel flag string bikini or scrape off all the bumper stickers?

Take off that shirt, or else!

Or else, what?

“That will certainly be a challenge. We’ll try to do that the right way,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM on Thursday. “We’ll get ahead of it as we are today in letting people know that, ‘Hey, we’re all about pride, we’re all about America, fly your U.S. flag high, fly your drivers flags high and come on into the track.’ But if we see something displayed at the track we’re going to have react and we will. More details to come but I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll do that in a smart way.”

Fellow drivers were quick to credit Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone black driver, for pushing NASCAR to enact the ban. Years of bad press and hand-wringing over the fate of the flag evaporated within 48 hours once Wallace publicly condemned the relic of racing’s good ol’ boy roots.

“I’ve seen too many comments and too many stories from first-time fans that come to a race in years past and the first thing they say, ‘I’ve seen the Confederate flag flying and it made me feel uncomfortable,’” Wallace told the “Today” show. “We shouldn’t have anybody feeling uncomfortable.”

Wallace finished 11th at Martinsville on Wednesday night, hours after the ban was announced, driving a Black Lives Matter paint scheme with “Compassion, Love, Understanding” emblazoned on the hood.

“It was really cool to see what Bubba was able to do,” 2018 NASCAR champion Joey Logano said. “He should be proud of the movement he’s made for the African-American community in our sport. He always has just by being here, but when you look at the comments he made on CNN the other day and then NASCAR completely answered it. Kudos to NASCAR. Kudos to Bubba for bringing it up and using his platform for something good.”

Brad Daugherty, the lone black Cup Series team owner, told the AP he was “touched to the core” NASCAR banned the flag.

“While some might say, ‘NASCAR, what took you so long?’ I feel that is not the right response,” he said. “This is a big step in the right direction and now is the time to envision the future. You can’t be looking in the rear-view mirror when you are going 200 mph.”

There were, of course, fans furious at the decision, howling on social media that their rights are being been trampled on and they would continue to wave the stars and bars. NASCAR helmet artist Jason Beam, who paints designs for Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and other star drivers, tweeted that he did not support “erasing only particular elements of history” to please a particular audience.

Wallace ripped Beam on social media, tweeting: “ You made it clear of where you stand in today’s matter. All respect lost for ya dawg.”

Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion, also cut ties with BEAMdesigns.

“Due to recent posts on social media I have decided to end my relationship with Beam Designs,” Johnson tweeted.

Busch and Ryan Blaney also severed relationships with the helmet designer.

For weeks, NASCAR has been one of the the only live U.S. sports on television and ratings are up a tick in this most unusual of seasons. Through the first 11 races, Cup Series racing on FOX/FS1 is averaged a 2.38 share, up 1% over last year’s average of 2.35 out of 44 market averages. Martinsville scored 1,711,000 viewers for a weeknight race on FS1.

And now comes the publicity surrounding the flag ban.

The surge of celebs engrossed with NASCAR could be a one-night only instance or perhaps the the star-power support signals the series is headed toward a revival.

“As far as the optics, NASCAR didn’t have a choice,” NASCAR historian Dan Pierce said. “I applaud the drivers for standing up. But the cynical person in me, especially when you’re dealing with NASCAR, is, did they get the OK from their sponsors ahead of time or from NASCAR? You have to give them credit for making a stand, which isn’t necessarily popular with a significant portion of their fan base.”

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Ban the Confederate flag? NASCAR could see the end of an era

The familiar scene of Confederate flags waved by fans at NASCAR tracks could soon be a relic of racing’s good ol’ boy roots.

Bubba Wallace — the lone black driver in the sport — wants the stock car series with deep ties to the South to ban the flag at its properties and formally distance itself from what for millions is a symbol of slavery and racism.

There are signs that NASCAR is on its way to that move. As the nation grapples with social unrest following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, the predominantly white field of drivers united for a video promoting social change. A black NASCAR official took a knee before Sunday’s race near Atlanta in what may have been a first for the series, and the governing body vowed to do a better job of addressing racial injustice.

Wallace — who wore a black T-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” at Sunday’s race — seized the moment and issued his most compelling comments yet on the topic of race and racing: “My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags.”

“There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying,” Wallace told CNN. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”

Wallace arrived in the sport hyped as a trailblazer of sorts in a series that has long lacked diversity in the field. He finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500, but has had limited success and often needed patchwork sponsorship deals to keep racing. His biggest reach for now is as an agent of change: The 26-year-old Alabama native has pushed the issue of race to the front burner for NASCAR.

“We want all to feel welcome at our events in the future,” said Daryl Wolfe, NASCAR executive vice president and chief sales and operations officer.

NASCAR has been more open in recent times to the eradication of the Confederate flag. Former chairman Brian France in 2015 tried to ban the flying of Confederate flags at race tracks, a proposal too broad to enforce and one that angered NASCAR’s core Southern-based fan base.

Not everyone obliged and fans staunchly defended their Confederate flags and raised them from their RVs.

“Now, it’s kind of a middle finger,” NASCAR historian Dan Pierce said.

But as Confederate monuments are toppled around the South and calls for social justice continue to ring out, those fans may have run out of time.

Wallace will make another statement Wednesday when NASCAR returns to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. He is driving a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme for the Richard Petty Motorsports ′ No. 43 Chevrolet.

“I think it’s going to speak volumes for what I stand for,” Wallace said in a Twitter video. “We knew the Martinsville race was open, we did not spell sponsorship for that, and it sparked an idea of, why not run a #blackout car?”

The message is simple for Wallace: “All lives will not matter until black lives matter.”

Wallace, though, conceded he rarely gave the Confederate flag much thought.

“What I’m chasing is checkered flags, and that was kind of my narrative,” Wallace told CNN.

Wallace is silent no more. He has emerged as NASCAR’s outspoken leader in the wake of Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and saying that he couldn’t breathe.

Wallace’s fellow drivers have followed his lead and broken with past protocols, where any hint of rankling corporate sponsors often led to muted responses to societal issues.

“I think it’s one of those things that some of us are just ignorant about and don’t really think about it or worry about it,” 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. said Tuesday. “And then you hear somebody like Bubba talk about it and how he feels about it and it wakes you up a bit. Yeah, I think NASCAR is going to do the right thing there.”

NASCAR took a hit when driver Kyle Larson was fired in April after he uttered a racial slur during a live-streamed virtual race. But drivers have forged ahead ready to create what they hope is a new legacy in the sport.

Two-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin said he would support NASCAR taking a hard line on the Confederate flag.

“NASCAR’s going to continue to make changes and I’m sure they’ll look at what flags they want to fly in the infield,” Hamlin said. “If you look at all the haulers each and every weekend, they’ve got the American flags flown all over the top of them. That’s what we salute when we do the national anthem.”

Ryan Blaney, who is tight with Wallace, said he joined some of the “peaceful protests” in Charlotte, North Carolina, and also called for the end of the Confederate flag.

“Bring your 50 stars flag,” Blaney said.

2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski was more reserved, saying: “I’m not going to tell people they need to get rid of it. That’s not my right either, but I certainly don’t salute it or respect it.”

Brad Daugherty, the lone black Cup Series team owner in NASCAR, told The Associated Press he stood with Wallace.

“After all this country has gone through in the last three months, I think Bubba Wallace’s thought of removing Confederate flags from NASCAR events is an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Marine Corps mandated that all Confederate flags, bumper stickers and similar items be removed from bases. Will NASCAR be next?

“That core constituency that may have waved the Rebel flag have waned significantly in NASCAR,” Pierce said. “It’s not necessarily a costly stance I’d say they’re making in terms of the modern day fan that follows NASCAR.”

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NASCAR vows to do better job addressing racial injustice

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Bubba Wallace donned a black T-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” and NASCAR paused before Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to acknowledge the country’s social unrest. The governing body vowed to to do a better job of addressing racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

During their warm-up laps, the 40 cars pulled to a stop in front of the empty grandstands and shut off their engines so NASCAR President Steve Phelps could deliver a message over their radio sets.

“Thank you for your time,” Phelps said. “Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard. The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better.”

A black NASCAR official took a knee along pit road, mimicking a gesture used by protesters in tribute to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

All 40 crews stood on the wall in front of their pit boxes.

“The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice,” Phelps said. “We ask our drivers … and all our fans to join us in this mission, to take a moment of reflection, to acknowledge that we must do better as a sport, and join us as we now pause and take a moment to listen.”

Wallace, the only African American driver in NASCAR’s top series, has been the sport’s most outspoken voice since Floyd died while in the custody of Minneapolis police, sparking massive protests in all 50 states and around the world demanding an end to law enforcement brutality against people of color.

Wallace’s T-shirt carried Floyd’s pleading words when an officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, pinned a knee on his neck for more than eight minutes while he was handcuffed. Chauvin and three other officers have been fired and charged in the incident, which followed the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

Protesters have cited all three African American victims in their demands for social justice.

After Phelps spoke to the NASCAR drivers, they observed a 30-second moment of silence. Then, as the cars refired their engines and slowly pulled away for the green flag, the Fox broadcast cut to a video made by a number of Cup drivers, including Wallace and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, as well as retired star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Several drivers also posted the video on their Twitter accounts, vowing to “listen and learn” from the protests that have rocked the nation. The vowed to “no longer be silent” and pledged to “work together to make real change.”

With its roots in the South and one-time embrace of Confederate symbols, NASCAR has a checkered racial history. The organization has launched diversity programs but still struggles to shake its reputation as a largely white sport.

During a shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson was fired after casually uttering a racial slur while competing in a video racing game.

“We need step up more than we ever have before,” said former Cup star Jeff Gordon, now a Fox broadcaster. “We are listening, we are learning and we are ready to change.”

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NASCAR CEO arrested on drug possession charges, DUI

NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France was arrested on Long Island, N.Y., Sunday night on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance, CBS Sports reported.

Police in Sag Harbor said France was pulled over around 7:30 p.m. after driving his 2017 Lexus through a stop sign. Officers then determined that France was operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol and he was placed under arrest. A subsequent search of the 56-year-old’s car turned up the drug oxycodone, police said. France was reportedly released just after 9 a.m. Monday morning after being held overnight in The Hamptons.

“We are aware of an incident that occurred last night and are in the process of gathering information,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We take this as a serious matter and will issue a statement after we have all of the facts.”

France became the CEO of NASCAR in 2003, keeping control of the organization in his family for the past 70 years. France’s father, Bill Jr., previously served as chairman and his grandfather, Bill Sr., founded the governing body in 1948. His older sister, Lesa France Kennedy, is the CEO of International Speedway Corporation, which operates and manages racetracks.

France has been criticized for being an absentee CEO. Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have reportedly been among those drivers to call on France to be more publicly invested in NASCAR.

“If I could make one change it would be that the leader of the sport is at the race track every weekend,” Keselowski said in January.

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NASCAR inspections under investigation after Pocono failures

The NASCAR Cup series has explained how 13 cars failed post-qualifying inspection at Pocono last weekend, with championship contenders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick two of the drivers penalized.

NASCAR has introduced a much more thorough inspection process system for 2018, using an optical scanning station, which uses lasers to map and check vehicle bodies to ensure legality.

The system had been used for qualifying only once previously this season at Chicago, where four cars were penalized.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick had taken pole ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Busch but he failed the body scan section of the inspection and Busch failed the chassis element, elevating Daniel Suarez to pole position.

“It’s pretty obvious what’s happened here. There were 13 cars that didn’t pass the post-qualifying inspection,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition.

Miller further explained, “Most of the problems were centered around the body scan, but not all. Some were mechanical measurements with the rear toe, but quite heavy on the body scans, [with the] 13 cars. We’re disappointed in this, but we’re certainly confident in our process and the teams didn’t do a real good job here.”

NASCAR has had a string of inspection failures in 2018 and teams have employed various tactics in an attempt to get around the system, and the topic was raised at Kentucky earlier this month by various media outlets.

Miller was asked if the severity of the penalties would increase after more failures, replying,”This is only the second time we’ve done this [after the first attempt at Chicago] and I don’t think the teams want to be sitting here in this situation, either.”

“But I think they tested the waters and it didn’t work out too good for them. So, hopefully, the next time we have one of these inspections, they’ll be able to get closer to right and we won’t have this,” Miller concluded.

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First Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas wins Tour De France

U.K. cyclist Geraint Thomas crossed the Tour de France finish line on the Champs-Élysées Sunday to become the first Welshman to take the honor.

Sunday’s ceremonial final stage came after Thomas’s Saturday defense of a 1 minute, 51 seconds lead over second-place finisher Tom Dumoulin. Four-time champion Froome placed third overall.

“After the customary champagne and photo opportunities during the first half of the stage, things – as they usually do – got serious once the peloton hit Paris. A six-man break got away early on the Champs-Élysées circuits, but with the sprinter’s teams keen to take the glory on the Tour’s last day, they were hunted down with 6.5km (4 miles) to go,” Cycling News reports.

“It’s going to take a while to sink in,” Thomas said before draping the flag of Wales over his shoulders during the podium ceremony, according to The Associated Press. “Normally that stage is really hard but today I just seemed to float around it. I had goosebumps going around there. The support from the Welsh, British flags. … To ride around wearing this (yellow jersey) is a dream.”

World champion Peter Sagan matched Erik Zabel’s record by winning the green jersey points competition for the sixth time.

French riders Julian Alaphilippe and Pierre Latour secured the polka-dot mountains jersey and best young rider white jersey, respectively.”

Notably, Thomas was a support rider for Froome’s four earlier Tour de France victories.

“This isn’t the first time a loyal support rider has emerged from the shadow of his former leader,” ESPN writes. Additionally, ESPN notes a “lack of tension” between Thomas and Froome over the role reversal, says Thomas “prevailed because Froome wavered, but there’s more to it.

Sky has the deepest pockets ($40 million, twice that of the next-richest organization) and correspondingly deepest bench in the business. In the highest mountains, incandescent 21-year-old Colombian talent Egan Bernal worked for both men.”