Sunday, June 17, 2018
Sports

Phoenix tricky for Cup contenders

NASCAR would be thrilled if the Chase for the Championship went down to the final race, Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Raceway, with Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth locked in a taut battle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lurking on the fringe.

"It's going to be the best points race," said Rick Hendrick, whose powerful four-car operation includes Johnson, the points leader, and Earnhardt, Sprint Cup's most popular driver. "If they don't have any trouble, it's going to come down to Homestead."

One qualm: Someone is likely to have Chase-changing trouble.

Before going to Homestead, the Chase hits Phoenix International Raceway today. The best-laid plans of Chase contenders can be trashed at one of the trickiest tracks on the circuit.

The track was reconfigured and resurfaced after the spring race in 2011. Since then, racing on the one-mile layout has been challenging to say the least.

In four Cup races at the reworked PIR, there have been 19 wrecks and six other cautions caused by spins.

"The new configuration is a little bit slicker," said Kurt Busch, who is 10th in points. "If you hit it exactly right, you can be quick there. But if you're off, it makes it treacherous and tough to pass when the track heats up."

The challenges of PIR make this a wild-card race because mishaps play no favorites. Johnson and Kenseth as well as non-contenders are likely to be swept up in a crash or lose track position because of a caution.

Each has wrecked once on the new track: Kenseth in 2011; Johnson in the fall race last year. Johnson finished 32nd because of the crash, triggered by a flat tire, and he could not recover in the finale. He led Brad Keselowski by seven points going into Phoenix but wound up third as Keselowski won the title.

Though he's on the pole for today's Advocare 500, Johnson lost a favorite course when PIR changed. In 16 starts on the old layout, he had four victories and 11 top-five finishes.

"There's definitely less confidence in the track that we're racing on now," Johnson said. "We won so many races with the old configuration and that old asphalt. If there was one guy sad to see that old configuration and asphalt go away, that was me."

In the spring race, Johnson showed signs of regaining that mastery by finishing second to Carl Edwards.

"Part of our sport is dealing with change," Johnson said. "We always have cars changing and surfaces changing. I feel like we're going in the right direction with that racetrack. Hopefully, we can capitalize on that this weekend."

Hendrick said Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, are "fired up" about taking another shot at PIR. The track beat the No. 48 Chevrolet last season.

Comments
For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

UPDATE, 11:37: Interesting decision by the Rays to move Adames to 2B today and reinstall Hechavarria at SS as he came off DL following Arroyo injury.Here is the Rays lineup:Duffy 3bBauers 1bRamos cCron dhAdames 2bHechavarria ssGomez rfRefsnyder lfFie...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Tarpons’ Castillo, North squad notch FSL All-Star Game victory

TAMPA — The Tarpons' Diego Castillo led the North squad to a 5-0 victory in the 57th Florida State League All-Star Game on his home field Saturday night.The game MVP went 2-for-4 with two doubles and started the scoring for the North in the sec...
Published: 06/17/18
Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

The Rays are still talking, as they should, about playing for something this season. The reality is that almost every move they've made, going back to the end of last season, and in some cases further, has been about 2019 and beyond.Clearing out vete...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

NEW YORK — Kevin Cash was not going to go all Lou Piniella on his Rays, raging and ripping and roaring over their latest mess, a 4-1 Saturday loss to the Yankees that didn't feel that close.Which is too bad because Piniella, the volcanic former...
Published: 06/16/18

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, June 17

TODAYAutosXfinity: Iowa 250 qualifying2:30 p.m.FS2Xfinity: Iowa 2505 p.m.FS1BaseballMarlins at Orioles1 p.m.FSFRays at Yankees2 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMAstros at Royals2 p.m.MLBRed Sox at Mariners (in progress)5 p.m.MLBCubs at Cardinals8 p.m.ESPNCollege b...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

NEW YORK — Just when it seemed like SS Adeiny Hechavarria might not play another game for the Rays, he will rejoin them on Sunday.The Rays announced after Saturday's 4-1 loss that INF Christian Arroyo was placed on the DL due to an oblique stra...
Published: 06/16/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

RHP Ryne Stanek did his job as the opener just fine in getting four outs on Saturday, but for the Rays' unorthodox pitching plan to work it takes a team effort. And LHP Ryan Yarbrough's inability to throw strikes quickly put them in a hole.The experi...
Published: 06/16/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

UPDATE, 11:49: Cash said he played Cron at 1B in an effort to get him more involved in the game, indicated he may do so again Sunday (with Bauers off vs. LH Sabathia) and should have done so more as Cron struggled. … Cash reiterated that CF Kev...
Published: 06/16/18
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Published: 06/15/18