From pole position, Team Penske-Chevrolet’s McLaughlin launched away from pole with teammate Power firmly in his slipstream, but Christian Lundgaard was haunting them, and went around the outside of Power into second, while Pato O’Ward, the highest started on the harder Firestone primaries, passed Alex Palou to grab fourth ahead of the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.
Behind Palou, David Malukas bounded up to sixth ahead of Felix Rosenqvist, and Andretti Autosport’s primary runners Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi.
One driver struggling to get his tires up to temperature was Josef Newgarden who slipped from his penalized eighth place down to 11th by Lap 4, behind Graham Rahal.
By Lap 6, McLaughlin had a three second lead over Lundgaard, with Power running a further 1.1sec adrift but 1.7sec ahead of O’Ward, who was working hard to keep his harder-tired car ahead of the menacing-looking Palou and Malukas. Scott Dixon had made his way up to 14th, but Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson slipped to 19th.
Dixon, who had started on primaries, pitted on Lap 13, while Newgarden stopped a lap later. Perhaps surprisingly, Palou also pitted at the end of Lap 15, as did Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet.
Power pitted from third at the end of Lap 17 and took on a set of scuffed reds, while O’Ward pitted a lap later to take on his first set of reds.
McLaughlin went to Lap 21 before pitting, with Lundgaard stopping a lap later, but a slight delay on the refueling and some strong out-laps from Power meant he emerged behind the #12 Penske.
McLaughlin’s lead over the yet-to-stop Ericsson was five seconds by Lap 28 of the 110, with Power having to work hard not to get too close to Ericsson whereby he might burn up his tires but also keep Lundgaard in his mirrors. RLL’s great Dane was five seconds clear of O’Ward, who had 2.3sec margin over Palou.
That early stop for reds had worked out well for Newgarden who was now seventh ahead of Rahal, Herta and Rossi, while early stopping had also seen Dixon move up to 11th, barely holding off VeeKay.
Ericsson finally pitted at the end of Lap 31, but the tactic hadn’t worked out well, and he was down in 18th, where he started. Meanwhile Power now had a near-eight-second deficit to McLaughlin, and was 1.4sec ahead of Lundgaard, who was being gradually gained on by O’Ward.
By Lap 40, the major track action was the squabble between Palou, Newgarden and Rahal over fifth place, and on Lap 42 down the back straight Newgarden made a very clean move into Turn 10 to snag fifth, leaving the Ganassi driver struggling to fend off Rahal. His efforts succeeded for just a lap, as the RLL driver zoomed past him at the exact same place. Palou then pitted.
Up front, Power had shaved the margin to McLaughlin down to 5.5sec, and had stretched his margin over Lundgaard to over six seconds, and the #30 RLL car was now less than a second ahead of O’Ward.
Newgarden pitted from fifth on Lap 45, the same lap as Dixon, the pair of them taking on scrubbed reds. A lap later, Lundgaard pitted to get off his worn reds to grab a set of primaries.
McLaughlin and Power stopped as they completed Lap 47 to grab primary tires, and they were followed in by O’Ward, whose AMSP team got him out ahead of Lundgaard who was struggling to get his black primaries up to temp. Now O’Ward was on reds again, and he would endeavor to close the eight second margin to Power, although he’d have to also pass the again late-stopping Ericsson who was also on the softer alternates. Ericsson would pit on Lap 54.
Unlike his teammates, Newgarden was on reds and was making the most of them, hustling up onto the tail of Lundgaard, and he calmly outbraked him into Turn 1 on Lap 55 to claim fourth.
On Lap 60, five past half distance, McLaughlin’s lead over Power was 4.9sec, but the pair were being reeled in by O’Ward and Newgarden, 2.2 and 4.3sec adrift respectively.
Lundgaard was a further five seconds back, and a similar distance ahead of teammate Rahal who had Rossi filling his mirrors, with Dixon, Herta and VeeKay close behind. Palou was losing time in 11th, reporting something amiss at the rear of his car.
On Lap 67, O’Ward was within one second of Power, and Newgarden was only two seconds behind. Having drawn within 4.4sec of McLaughlin, Power was briefly stymied by the lapped Jimmie Johnson but by diving past the #48 Ganassi car at Turn 1, Power bought himself some breathing room as O’Ward couldn’t zap Johnson until the back straight, and Newgarden gained on him.
However, the alternates now looked no better than the primaries, O’Ward and Newgarden started losing a tenth or two from Power who was now four seconds behind McLaughlin.
Rossi was the first driver in the Top 10 to make his final stop at the end of Lap 77, and Lundgaard, Dixon, VeeKay and Palou followed suit a lap later. Sadly Lundgaard stalled it as he tried to leave.
McLaughlin, Power, O’Ward, Newgarden, Rahal and Herta stopped next time by, and the remained in that order, but in condensed form. McLaughlin had lost time on his in-lap when Rosenqvist emerged ahead of him from his final stop, and so by the time the top four emerged, McLaughlin’s margin over Power was only 1.4sec. Newgarden, interestingly, had picked primaries for his last stint: would this pay off in the closing laps?
Power had got McLaughlin’s lead down to 1sec when the first caution of the day flew, as VeeKay misjudged a lapping maneuver on Johnson approaching Turn 1, tucking back in ahead before he had cleared the Ganassi car. Instead he squeezed Johnson into the wall, breaking the NASCAR legend’s suspension so he slithered into the Turn 1 run-off.
Following the rash of stops, Rossi had moved up to fifth ahead of Dixon, Rahal, Herta and VeeKay, while Lundgaard’s stalling had dropped him to 10th, although still ahead of Palou.
On the Lap 90 restart, O’Ward tried to outbrake Power into Turn 1, but instead nudged into the Penske, wheel-to-wheel. Right behind them, Dixon had ducked past Newgarden and Rossi as they fought over fourth, Newgarden regretting his choice of primaries. Then as O’Ward lost momentum from his failed pass on Power, Dixon was now on his tail as they exited Turn 3. The AMSP driver moved hard right into Turn 4 to block Dixon and curb his momentum, so was ordered by Race Control to relinquish the spot to the six-time champion.
Behind them, Newgarden lost places to Rossi, Herta, Rahal and Lundgaard, but regained a spot when Lundgaard had to pit. He had been battling with Rossi who had dropped a wheel off the track but when he tried to outbrake the Andretti driver into Turn 1, he ran long and collected a signboard in the runoff, necessitating a pitstop.
On Lap 100, with 10 to go, McLaughlin held a 1.6sec lead over Power, who had 0.9sec ahead of the remarkable Dixon, up from 16th on the grid. O’Ward, who had suffered sidepod damage when he bashed into Power, was now five seconds behind Dixon, and had Rahal, Herta and Rossi stacked up behind him.
With three laps to go, the top three were equidistant, 1.3sec apart, with O’Ward still working hard to grab fourth from the wounded O’Ward. Power did his best to close down the gap, but was thinking big picture, keeping a prime title rival Dixon behind him.
McLaughlin scored his third win of the year by 1.2sec, with Power 0.4sec ahead of Dixon who could be satisfied by a brilliant drive.
O’Ward clung onto fourth ahead of Rahal, Herta and Rossi, while Newgarden eighth ahead of the impressive Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing, and Rosenqvist.
Ericsson and Palou finished 11th and 12th, Palou now unable to retain his championship. O’Ward, too, has now been eliminated.
Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.
The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.
The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.
Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.
The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.
But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.
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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club
MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.
Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.
“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”
It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.
Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.
The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”
“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”
The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.
“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”
He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.
“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”
The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.
“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.
Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.
“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”
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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.
Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.
Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.
The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.
The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.
Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.
“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”
Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.
The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.
Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”
Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.