Castroneves Wins Third Indianapolis 500 Title

first_imgBy Dialogo May 26, 2009 Nice article also much informative.Is it magical race as this was the best race of the month. This wasn’t just a race, it was vindication. Helio Castroneves crossed the finish line Sunday beneath an overcast sky at the Indianapolis 500, then loosed enough tears to float his race car another 500 miles down the road. He cried because a third win gained him entry into a charmed circle of champions, only nine of whom have been lucky and courageous enough to capture that many in the 93 times the race has been run. And he cried because the crushing weight of a three-month legal battle with the Internal Revenue Service was finally, unmistakably in his rearview mirror. But mostly, Castroneves cried because his fate once again rested in his own two hands. “You guys don’t understand,” Castroneves roared from the winner’s circle as a 250,000-strong crowd roared back just as loudly. “You guys kept me strong.” A lesser man might have been broken by what Castroneves went through. In March, he was standing trial for federal income tax evasion and looking at six years in prison. He was acquitted, but the final charge against him wasn’t dropped until Friday, two days before the biggest event in his sport. Compared to that ordeal, the race could not have seemed all that taxing. Castroneves grabbed the lead coming out of a restart with 17 laps to go and never faced a serious challenge after that. He started on the pole, played it safe through the middle while ironing out a gearbox problem, then saw his opportunity and grabbed it by the throat. Then just like Rick Mears, one of three four-time Indy 500 champions that Castroneves will train his sights on next, he deployed smarts and patience to choke every last bit of drama out of the race. The resemblance is hardly coincidental. Owner Roger Penske gave both men their shot at the big time and won their loyalty forever. He stood by Castroneves throughout his fight with the IRS and keeps Mears on the payroll as a driving coach and consultant. To no one’s surprise, the two drivers found common ground and became fast friends. “He’s always taken to this place like a duck takes to water,” Mears said. “He’s a competitor, but he’s a big picture guy also. And that’s what it takes … around this place. He’s very good, and what I mean by that is that he rarely puts a wheel wrong around here. He makes very few mistakes.” Both men are masterful in the maelstrom of a race, sifting through clues swirling around them at 220 mph and collecting just enough pieces to solve a tough puzzle. Yet Mears conceded he couldn’t imagine the emotions Castroneves worked through in the quiet moments away from the racetrack, nor the joy he must have felt coming down the home straightaway in front this time. “I know he was just glad to be here. But to have everything fall into place like it did,” Mears said, “is just amazing.” Yet Castroneves’ rivals sensed something different when he returned to the track. The bubbly Brazilian who electrified crowds at Indy Racing League stops and won an international following by waltzing off with the title on “Dancing With The Stars” two seasons ago was noticeably subdued. “Just the kind of hug you get from him” is how IRL glamour girl Danica Patrick described it. “After what he’s gone through, it was a different kind of hug. “So I’m very happy for him,” she added. “We’re glad to have him back, and obviously he’s very good for the sport.” It’s funny how things work out. Just last week, former NFL star Michael Vick walked out of federal prison still vilified and nearly broke, a disgraced former con with no guarantee there will be a place for him in pro football if and when he’s ready to go back. Castroneves, on the other hand, was acquitted, then welcomed back to racing with open arms and the benefit of the doubt. With a quarter of the race left, his sister stood behind Castroneves’ pit, her eyes shut tight and hands clasped in prayer. In short order, Helio’s parents and his girlfriend locked hands and joined the vigil. Given the chance to pick up where he left off, the Brazilian climbed back behind the wheel and wrote the perfect ending to what could have been a Hollywood script. Except that it was all true. “Towards the end,” Castroneves said. “I didn’t touch anything on the car. When I got in the front, it was, ‘Never look back.'” He paused one more time to choke back tears. “This race is magical. It was a tough beginning,” he added, “but this is the best month of May ever.”last_img read more

Easterby rejects Edwards’ claims

first_imgSimon Easterby has rejected Wales coach Shaun Edwards’ claims that Ireland play “very dangerous” rugby by employing the choke tackle. Forwards coach Easterby refused to be drawn into a war of words with Wales assistant Edwards over Ireland’s frequent and telling use of a tackle designed to hold the opponent off the ground. Former rugby league star Edwards has branded the choke tackle “a blight on the game that encourages high tackling”, but Easterby denied Ireland take any risks on safety with their approach. Press Association The tactic has been hugely successful for Ireland, who put it to good use to beat Wales in Dublin en route to claiming the 2014 Six Nations title. Ireland host England in Dublin on Sunday, before taking on Wales in Cardiff on March 14. Edwards addressed the media regarding perceived and purposeful obstruction dummy lines run by England players ahead of Wales’ clash with Stuart Lancaster’s side at the start of the tournament. The former Wasps coach has weighed into another wider rugby issue, suggesting the choke tackle puts player safety to the test. Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton produced two pivotal turnovers from choke tackles on France’s express train centre Mathieu Bastareaud in his side’s 18-11 victory on February 14. The 29-year-old suffered a black eye and several eyebrow stitches from two clashes of heads with France’s bullish midfielder, but refused to stray from the tactic. While Easterby defended Joe Schmidt’s side’s right to continue to play within the game’s current laws, the former Ireland flanker was not about to let any rebuttal turn personal. The former British and Irish Lion instead turned his attention to the battle for Ireland’s loosehead prop berth, admitting a selection conundrum between Jack McGrath and Cian Healy. Fit-again Healy was released for Leinster action at the weekend after coming off the bench in Ireland’s victory over France. The British Lions front-rower is finally back up to speed after more than three months of hamstring trouble, and Easterby admitted he is ready to start if selected ahead of McGrath. “We’re lucky really that we’ve got Cian coming back to full fitness and up to speed on what we’re doing,” said Easterby. “He’s been out of the game for three months, he’s probably made a really quick recovery from that injury and he’s come back in unbelievable shape. “But we also have a player in Jack who has been phenomenal, and his numbers are high in everything that he does. “And we now have a great position in the loosehead that we do have two quality players in there we can call upon. “It’s a good position to be in, it’s not every position that we have that in. “Cian is definitely fit, yeah. “Listen it’s a nice position to be in, you’ve got Jack who has played a lot of rugby for us and done really well for a young man in a very attritional position.” Pressed on the issue and asked if Ireland play dangerous rugby, Easterby replied: “No.” The former Scarlets coach was however determined not to cloud the build-up to Sunday’s pivotal RBS 6 Nations clash with England by discussing the merits of the choke tackle at length. “He’s entitled to his opinion, but I don’t want to comment on that,” said Easterby of Edwards’ comments. “It’s a type of tackle that teams are using, just like a chop tackle is, just like an assist tackle, but I would prefer not to comment on what Shaun Edwards has said, because that’s outside of this environment and I don’t want to be commenting on that. “We’ve got to play within the law, and as long as we’re disciplined and play within the law, then that’s all we can ask of the players, and that’s what we’ll coach time and time again. “I really don’t have an opinion on what he said.” Ireland defence coach Les Kiss pioneered the choke tackle in 2011, to capitalise on a technicality of maul laws. The defending team attempts to hold the attacking player off the ground and hold the ball in the resulting maul – when play stagnates, the defending team win the put-in at the scrum and a turnover. last_img read more

Trojan basketball still needs more time

first_imgFrustration is natural, but give the Trojans time.We shouldn’t overreact. But, admittedly, it remains increasingly difficult not to.We’re watching the USC men’s basketball team amid its worst season in school history.The 23 losses are a program first. They have won 20 percent of their games, the lowest since the program’s inception. The Trojans have won one game since mid-December, while utilizing a shortened eight-man rotation, including two walk-ons, for much of conference play.Nothing in that is reassuring that next year will see USC return to the NCAA tournament following four appearances in the Big Dance from 2007-2011. Most Cardinal-and-Gold fans remain understandably aggravated, frustrated and irritated with recent results. If they weren’t, it’d be strange. Nobody likes losing. And nobody likes ugly losing.“I’m frustrated for the players,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said Saturday. “And I’m frustrated for our fans. I’ve done this for 33 years at many different places and at different levels. Basketball sometimes goes like this.”The responses have been what you would expect: Just fire the coach. That’s what they say. It sounds easy, painless and something a school like Kentucky might do, should its team be swimming in mediocrity.“Coaching staff should get the boot,” read one message board post following the Trojans’ latest ordeal — a 56-52 loss at Arizona State on Saturday.But here’s the thing: USC isn’t Kentucky.The Trojans haven’t been to the Final Four since Dwight Eisenhower was president. They haven’t won a regular season conference title since 1985. USC basketball is vastly different from USC football.Recovering from NCAA-levied sanctions is not as seamless as USC football coach Lane Kiffin has made it look on the gridiron.If you’re looking for an explanation as to why the Trojans have become fixated in the Pac-12 cellar, it’s a rather simple one.USC has one player, redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith, from its 2009 recruiting class. Its 2008 class vanished in the aftermath of then-coach Tim Floyd’s resignation three years ago. In short, USC has no recruited junior or senior scholarship players available.  The Trojans lost three starters from last season’s 19-win team in forwards Marcus Simmons and Nikola Vucevic and center Alex Stepheson. They lost five players this season, three of them starters, because of season-ending injuries.The counterargument remains: O’Neill should have recruited better.He recruited senior guard Jio Fontan and redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, two transfer players, but they’ve been in street clothes for much of the season. He recruited a 7-foot center in redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon, but he hasn’t played since Jan. 26 and has worn a splint on his hand, a brace on his left knee and a boot on his right foot at different points this season.“I’ve never seen a team with that conglomeration of situations and circumstances that have led to where we’re at,” O’Neill said. “It’s not an excuse; it’s a set of circumstances.”Whatever it is, it certainly explains the Trojans’ current predicament.NCAA investigations and sanctions are designed to be crippling. The Trojans’ success in football is the exception to the rule. You aren’t supposed to be ranked in the top 10 amid scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban.No, O’Neill’s team isn’t facing such restrictions now, but back in 2010 the program was, and that lingering cloud over the program in the months before the NCAA released its findings hampered the program.“It killed recruiting,” O’Neill said, reflecting upon his first season with the program in 2009-2010. “I got the job late, we didn’t self-impose until January, and then we didn’t get the sanctions confirmed until May really handcuffed us for a full year.”In football, guys will take a chance on USC. After all, the program has produced more NFL draft picks than any school in the country. But such isn’t the case when it comes to basketball. It doesn’t have the same pedigree.The Trojans start two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior in James Blasczyk, who is a first-year transfer and has been limited because of a stress injury to his right foot. And those players aren’t the one-and-done types you’d see at    top-10 programs. That talent doesn’t typically flock to the Galen Center.Until USC is a few years removed from its self-imposed sanctions and can field a healthy unit, we won’t be able to fairly evaluate O’Neill, the coaching staff and his personnel.Is this a coach who can annually lead the Trojans to the NCAA tournament? The top of the Pac-12 pecking order?I’m guessing he can. A season ago, he took a depth-plagued USC team to the Big Dance. He led Marquette to back-to-back 20-win seasons in the early 1990s. But even at this point, it’s still just endless speculation.We only know this: As the nightmarish 2012 season comes to a close, O’Neill’s young group needs more time to develop. Evidently, based on recent weeks, it needs a lot of time. “The 19th Hole” runs Mondays. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Joey at jrkaufma@usc.edu.last_img read more