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NASCAR weekend recap: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Sonoma for second year in a row

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NASCAR weekend recap: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Sonoma for second year in a row

Sunday's NASCAR race at Sonoma felt like dejá vu. Another year, another dominant win by Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn around the California road course in the Toyota Save-Mart 350, outsmarting their competition. Only this time it was with a different team in Joe Gibbs Racing, the third time Truex has drunk the celebratory wine with a different organization.

Here's what went down this weekend in the racing world.

Truex Jr. On A Roll

For those who thought switching teams from Furniture Row Racing to JGR in the offseason would slow down Truex, it's time to admit you were wrong.

Because MTJ hasn't slowed down whatsoever. If anything, he's picking up speed rapidly and showing no signs of slowing down with Pearn atop the pit box. Sonoma marked the No. 19 teams fourth win of 2019, equaling his season total from last season. Heading into the next four races (Chicago, Daytona, Kentucky, and New Hampshire), his confidence should only increase.

Why? How do finishes last season of fourth, second, first and fourth sound? Because that's what he did last season. That run of four consecutive top-five finishes was kickstarted by a win at Sonoma ... which also just happened. Only this year, Truex is arguably in better equipment and has more data available to him at JGR. Message to the competition: watch out.  

Career Day For DiBenedetto

A career-best finish at his home track made for an emotional Matt DiBenedetto. The Grass Valley, California native wheeled his No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota to a fourth-place finish, passing veterans like Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman in the closing stages. 

DiBenedetto took a "leap of faith" after the 2018 season, leaving Go FAS Racing with no solidified plans for 2019 and beyond. But when Kasey Kahne retired, that opened up a seat, one that DiBenedetto said took multiple people, from Toyota executives to JGR drivers to approve the move.

Nicknamed "Guido," DiBenedetto's career began as a JGR development driver before his driving path took countless twists and turns. Running in the 30s with backmarker equipment for years upon years has finally landed him in a competitive, respectable car. If Sonoma was any indication of the future, driver No. 95 is going to make the most of the opportunity.

New Layout, No Problem

Much of the chatter entering the weekend was regarding "The Carousel," added for the first time in over two decades to celebrate the tracks 50th anniversary. No drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field Sunday had ever turned a lap on the new 2.52-mile layout. One would have to assume that'd lead to some carnage, right?

Quite the contrary. In fact, there were zero naturally occurring caution flags for the first time since Las Vegas earlier this season (the only two cautions were for stages). Before Vegas, it had never happened since the advent of stage racing prior to 2017.

Although the new aerodynamic rules package for 2019 didn't have a huge impact on the road course racing we saw, drivers post-race were still adamant that it was difficult to complete passes, citing the downforce keeping the cars too sealed to the racing surface.

Dropping The Mic

After 19 years in the FOX Sports brodcast booth, NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip dropped the mic when the checkered flag flew on Sunday.

One final boogity and one final call for a legend of the sport.


2019 NASCAR STANDINGS

This upcoming weekend, NASCAR returns to the NBC family of networks at Chicagoland Speedway for the Camping World 400 on Sunday, June 30 at 3 p.m. EDT.

'Beyond the Scoreboard': 'Power of Sports' premieres, plus Chase Center opens

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'Beyond the Scoreboard': 'Power of Sports' premieres, plus Chase Center opens

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST

  • “Power of Sports” Indianapolis episode premieres. This month, the popular show hosted by Rick Horrow and distributed by FOX Sports regional sports networks nationwide returns to Indianapolis to profile the regional impact of sports. A big part of the October episode takes place inside iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but not on the bricks…instead, on the links. 2019 marked the third year of the Indy Women in Tech Championship Driven by Group1001, one of the premiere stops on the LPGA Tour. The best golfers in the world fought it out at Brickyard Crossing with a $2 million purse on the line. Off the course, a full week of events made the most of this community-centered event. The week began with the IWiT Summit, where leaders from the golf, business, and tech worlds came together to discuss the benefits of inclusivity and diversity in their industries. The October episode also profiles philanthropic initiatives by the Indianapolis Colts – who stunned the Kansas City Chiefs in a primetime Sunday upset – and an Indy nonprofit founded by a national champion cyclist who uses an innovative program to share his love of cycling with kids.\
  • In Miami, Super Bowl LIV has already kicked off. Last Saturday, the HistoryMiami Museum opened the exhibit, “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football HOF.” The exhibit arrives ahead of Super Bowl LIV and “will remain there until February 9,” according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The exhibit features 8,000 square feet of “photographs, vintage jerseys, helmets and interactive displays,” along with the Lombardi Trophy on display in a “Champions Theater.” The museum’s “Hometown Heroes” section “celebrates the Dolphins and athletes who played in South Florida during high school and college.” And last Friday, Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel announced that Hard Rock Stadium will "phase out 99.4% of single-use plastics by 2020 – including for Super Bowl LIV.” On December 22, Hard Rock Stadium will become the first venue in the NFL to “feature 20oz sustainable draft cups.” In all, the team will “eliminate more than 2.8 million pieces of plastic annually including over 600,000 plastic bottles.”
  • The Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center tenure begins. The Warriors were “happy to get into their new billion dollar home” on Saturday night despite losing to the Lakers during the team’s exhibition opener at Chase Center, according to ESPN. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “The crowd was fantastic. It seemed like everybody was, including the players and coaches and officials, everybody was sort of looking around.” The “cheapest ticket on the secondary market for Saturday’s debut game” was $131, and to get in the lower bowl, fans had to “shell out $300-plus.” The San Jose Mercury-News added that the arena is an "impressive building and a testament to what next-level perseverance, strong vision, and a ton of cold, hard cash can build.” There is “not a thing functionally wrong with this place.” Along with the indoor Jumbotron, Chase Center "boasts a prominent outdoor video screen, the captivating feature of a spacious outdoor area.” Samsung partnered with the Warriors to install the Jumbotron, the largest center hung main videoboard installed in a sports arena — a feature that will make the building a top level concert destination.

'Beyond the Scoreboard': Super Bowl halftime performers announced, plus NHl social media development

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USA TODAY Sports

'Beyond the Scoreboard': Super Bowl halftime performers announced, plus NHl social media development

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST

  • EverFi “Runs the Right Plays.” Premiering earlier this year, The Sport Business Handbook recognizes the last 50 years as the formative period for the modern era of sport. Likewise, online education leader EverFi is celebrating over a decade of harnessing technology to equip communities with the skills they need for success. To celebrate the good work in our communities contributors continue to do, EverFi presents "Running the Right Plays: Doing Good Through Sport” on October 2 in Washington, DC. This symposium will present a rare opportunity to hear directly from key contributors in sport, business, and philanthropy and gain exclusive access to their personal insights. Panelists joining Rick Horrow for the evening include Lisa Bowman, Chief Marketing Officer, United Way Worldwide;  Jon Chapman, Co-Founder & President, EverFi; Phil de Picciotto, Founder & President, Octagon; Damon Phillips, General Manager, NBC Sports Washington; Nick Sakiewicz, National Lacrosse League Commissioner; and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. We will also present the top five Washington, DC community impact milestones in and around sports.
  • Pepsi, the NFL, and Roc Nation announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show. “Ever since I saw Diana Ross fly off into the sky at the Halftime Show, I dreamed of performing at the Super Bowl,” said Lopez. “And now it’s made even more special not only because it’s the NFL’s 100th anniversary, but also because I am performing with a fellow Latina.  The Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show telecast on FOX taking place at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium on February 2, 2020 will be produced by NFL Network. Roc Nation will serve as producers and strategic entertainment advisors of the live performance. According to Variety, although Lopez is originally from the Bronx and Shakira from Colombia, Miami is "widely recognized as the global capital of the Latin music business.” The booking also “bears the fingerprints of Jay-Z,” as it comes on the heels of the NFL-Roc Nation partnership announced last month that “encompasses entertainment – including the Super Bowl halftime show." 
  • The NHL looks to boost players’ social media presence through a deal with Opendorse. According to NHL.com, the NHL and participating clubs will use Opendorse to help players publish their highlights, in-game images, and other media to their personal social channels with the tap of a button. Rather than simply handing players a library of assets to wade through, the NHL and its clubs can now send individual players specific photos, videos, or GIFs, streamlining the process to effectively engage their social media audiences. Almost all of the work is done by Opendorse, all the athletes have to do is add or edit their own messaging, then approve the post to publish with a single tap. Opendorse then automatically publishes the post to the appropriate channel at the scheduled date and time. As NHL players already significantly outpace fellow professional athletes in terms of engagement rate in 2019, this added addition of Opendorse will boost the NHL’s social media game to a higher frequency to build a larger brand for hockey overall.