Latest North Carolina sports

May 21, 2017 - 3:30 am


Bowyer, Blaney, Suarez and Elliott round out All-Star field

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer raced their way into the NASCAR All-Star race Saturday night by winning stages of the qualifying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

They'll be joined in the 20-car field by Chase Elliott, the winner of a fan vote.

Bowyer started from the pole and dominated the first stage by leading all 20 laps and winning by 3.6 seconds to reach his eighth All-Star race. Blaney duplicated the feat in stage two, leading all 20 laps to punch his ticket to the $1 million exhibition race.

Suarez, a rookie, beat out Elliott to qualify for his first All-Star race by winning the final 10-lap segment.

Elliott received some consolation after the loss when he was informed by Jeff Gordon that he won the fan vote over Danica Patrick.


Lexi Thompson holds onto 3-stroke lead at Kingsmill

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Lexi Thompson remained in position for her first victory since a rules infraction cost her a major title, shooting a 2-under 69 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead over In Gee Chun into the final round of the Kingsmill Championship.

Thompson is playing her third event since losing the ANA Inspiration in a playoff after being penalized four strokes for a rules violation that a TV viewer reported.

The long-hitting Florida player had three birdies and a bogey — on the par-3 17th — to reach 14-under 199 on Kingsmill's River Course.

Chun had a 67, making six birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko was five strokes back at 9 under after a 70. Trying to hold off So Yeon Ryu and Ariya Jutanugarn for the No. 1 spot, Ko is winless since July.

Sei Young Kim (66) and 2015 winner Minjee Lee (67) also were 9 under.

Gerina Piller, second entering her third straight round alongside Thompson, had a 74 to drop into a tie for ninth at 6 under.

Ryu, the ANA winner, was 4 under after a 72. Jutanugarn, defending the first of her five tour victories last year, had a 70 to also reach 4 under.


13-1 shot Cloud Computing springs upset in Preakness

BALTIMORE (AP) — Sometimes it pays to have a fresh horse.

Cloud Computing skipped the Kentucky Derby, while eventual winner Always Dreaming and Classic Empire mixed it up in the mud at Churchill Downs.

Two weeks later, Cloud Computing pounced on those two horses in the Preakness, pulling off an upset victory at 13-1 odds Saturday. He became the first horse to skip the Derby and win the second leg of the Triple Crown since filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

"Some of the reason that we won today was because we were patient and didn't throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very difficult track," winning co-owner Seth Klarman said. "We made a great call."

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire dueled for most of the race before Classic Empire stuck his nose in front midway on the far turn. It looked as if Classic Empire would go on to win, but Cloud Computing ran him down on the outside.

Always Dreaming faded to eighth in the 10-horse field on a cool and cloudy day at Pimlico. The crowd of 140,327 and wagering total of $94,127,434 were records, bettering the marks set last year.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, Cloud Computing ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.98 and paid $28.80, $8.60 and $6. It was just the dark brown colt's fourth career start, the fewest of any horse in the race, and only his second win. He didn't run as a 2-year-old because of injury.

Classic Empire returned $4.40 and $4, and 31-1 shot Senior Investment was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $10.20.

New York-based trainer Chad Brown earned his first victory in a Triple Crown race. Castellano won for the second time. He rode Bernardini to victory in the 2006 Preakness.

Castellano comes from a racing family, with a father, uncle and brother who have been jockeys.

"We've been working for a long time for this moment," he said. "It's great for the family."

The 142nd Preakness had been billed as a match race between Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, and it was from the start.

They broke out of the starting gate next to each other and the fight was on. Always Dreaming took a slight lead with Classic Empire on his flank.

Meanwhile, Cloud Computing was back in third as Castellano watched the duel unfold in front of him.

Always Dreaming was the first to throw in the towel, surrendering the lead to Classic Empire midway around the final turn.

"We didn't have an excuse," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Always Dreaming. "We were in a position we expected to be, and I think the turnaround was a little too quick. He ran so hard in the Derby and today just wasn't his day."

Always Dreaming lost for the first time in five races this year. He'd won his first four by a combined 23 1/4 lengths.

Classic Empire and Julien Leparoux went into the stretch with three-length lead, seemingly on his way to the winner's circle.

At that point, trainer Mark Casse thought he was headed there, too.

"Of course," he said. "But I thought I was going to win a lot of times before, so it doesn't shock me."

But Classic Empire also paid a price for putting away Always Dreaming. Classic Empire fought on to the finish line, but couldn't hold off a fresh horse in Cloud Computing.

"Certainly I'm not going to dispute the fact that I brought in a fresh horse as part of our strategy," Brown said. "Our horse is very talented, too. Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them let's take them on two weeks' rest when we have six (weeks), and it worked."

After Cloud Computing ran third in the Wood Memorial, Brown and the owners decided the colt would benefit from skipping the Derby. He came into the Preakness after a six-week break.

"It just didn't work out in the Wood. We just ran out of time," Brown said. "We just really zeroed in on this race, and thankfully it worked out."

The victory was especially sweet for Klarman, who grew up a few blocks from Pimlico. He turns 60 on Sunday. He and William Lawrence have been buying and racing horses together since 2006.

"This is the culmination of 25 years of hard work and learning and trying to figure this game out," said Klarman, president of the Baupost Group, a hedge fund valued at $31 billion.

"In my regular life, I'm a long-term value investor. This is gambling. It's really been a thrill and this is the highlight of our career so far as thoroughbred owners."

Klarman, who races as Klaravich Stables, is a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox.

Lookin At Lee, the Derby runner-up, was fourth. Gunnevera was fifth, followed by Multiplier and Conquest Mo Money. Hence was ninth and Term of Art last.


Predators left surprised, determined by Johansen's injury

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Nashville Predators are still stunned by the loss of top scorer Ryan Johansen to a season-ending thigh injury after Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

They're also determined not to allow his absence to stop their quest for their first berth in the Stanley Cup Final.

In the franchise's first public comments about losing Johansen, Peter Laviolette declined to give any details about the top-line center's apparently serious injury when the coach spoke before Game 5 against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night. Nashville and Anaheim split the series' first four games.

"That's a factor, sure, that we're without Ryan," Laviolette said. "With regard to our players' heads, they've been in the right place, I think, through the entire playoffs, and they remain in the right place. We've got a job to do tonight. We wish Ryan was here with us, but he's not. We've got to move forward, and there's a lot of trust and belief inside of our room that we can be successful."

Laviolette only confirmed that Johansen was hurt during Game 4, but played through the injury and finished the game. Afterward, doctors determined Johansen needed emergency surgery.

Johansen's teammates apparently had no idea he was seriously hurt during the game. Johansen skated slowly to the bench and grimaced in pain after a late-game check from Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, but it's still unclear whether the injury was caused by that innocuous hit.

"I had no idea it happened," Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "Apparently it wasn't that big of a deal, or big of a hit, or what have you. So yeah, it's tough for him. He had a really good go here in the playoffs, especially, and we're definitely going to miss him."

Johansen led the Predators with 13 points in 14 playoff games while centering their dangerous top line alongside Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Laviolette also declined to give any update on the condition of center Mike Fisher, who took a hit to the head in Game 4 when he ducked in front of a leaping Manson.

Fisher, who is scoreless in 14 playoff games, also was scratched for Game 5, leaving Nashville without two centers.

Frederick Gaudreau made his Stanley Cup playoff debut in their absence, centering a line with Colin Wilson and Austin Watson early on. Young forward Miikka Salomaki returned to the Preds' playoff lineup after a five-game absence, and veteran center Vern Fiddler also returned to Nashville's lineup after sitting out the past two games.

"I think we're very deep up front," Wilson said. "We have a lot of great centermen and a lot of forwards who can contribute offensively. Obviously Joey, certainly (is) leading our team in points there and doing a great job, but there's a lot of offensive talent up front, and we're confident in ourselves."

Johansen hadn't missed a game since joining the Predators in a trade with Columbus in January 2016. He shared the club scoring lead with Arvidsson in the regular season, posting 61 points.


Almiron scores 3 goals, Atlanta beats Houston 4-1

ATLANTA (AP) — Miguel Almiron scored three goals and expansion Atlanta United beat the Houston Dynamo 4-1 on Saturday night.

After the start was delayed 55 minutes by lightning, Almiron produced some fireworks of his own.

Taking short taps from Yamil Asad and then making a nice touch to get open, Almiron found the top left corner in the 30th minute and the top right in the 42nd. He got his third goal, sixth of the season, on a penalty kick to close out the scoring for Atlanta (4-4-3) in the 80th minute.

Julian Gressel tapped home a loose ball during a scramble in the box in the 76th minute.

Alex Kahn made four saves for Atlanta before Erick Torres picked up his ninth goal on a penalty kick in the 90th minute.

Houston (6-5-1) is 2-20-8 in its last 30 road games and has been outscored by 32 goals.


Bourdais fractures pelvis, hip during Indy qualifying crash

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Sebastien Bourdais will have surgery Saturday night to repair a fractured pelvis after a fiery crash in Indianapolis 500 qualifying.

Indiana University Methodist Hospital doctors told track officials that the 38-year-old Frenchman had multiple fractures in his pelvis and a fractured right hip.

He slammed head-on into the second turn wall after completed two laps at over 231 mph, the fastest laps of the day.

As the image of the hit — the car flipping over and flames and smoke billowing out — appeared on video boards around the track, drivers were stunned as safety team members spent about 10 minutes trying to get Bourdais out of the car.

"You see big numbers during the week and people that are fast, the one that obviously stood out for me during the whole week was Bourdais," Scott Dixon said. "Thinking of him, hoping he's OK. It was definitely a big hit."

Bourdais was transported by ambulance from the track to the hospital, and track officials said he never lost consciousness.

Other drivers were concerned, too.

Ed Carpenter, who grew up around the track, called it one of the hardest hits he's ever seen in 500 qualifying. He said it took his breath away.

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso also said he was hoping for a quick recovery.

"I know him from F1 time, and also yesterday we were talking in the casino, in the event, all together about the cars, about how he feels here, how fast he was on Friday," Alonso said. "He was still very fast today."

For the four-time Champ Car champion won the IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, after starting 21st.. Bourdais followed that with finishes of second at Long Beach, California, and eighth at Alabama before a crash at Phoenix dropped him to 19th.

Last weekend at the IndyCar Grand Prix, a bad engine forced him to drop out after only a few laps. And after another engine change Thursday night, Bourdais suddenly jumped to the top of the 500 speed chart Friday — giving him hope of winning the pole.

"It's what this season has been for us so far," Bourdais said Friday. "We've had really good days and really pretty terrible days. But the good thing is, you know, when we're given the opportunity, we seem to make the best of it."

With the final day of qualifying for the traditional 33-car starting grid set for Sunday and the race scheduled for May 28, Coyne likely will need a replacement driver soon.

Because only 33 cars are entered for the 500, any that do not qualify Sunday will start from of the field and will be arranged based on entrant's points. The final two practices are scheduled for Sunday and Friday.

There are always willing drivers around the speedway in May, and one intriguing name could be Stefan Wilson, who got out of his Andretti Autosport car so Alonso could race.

But the only thing on Coyne's mind Saturday night was Bourdais.

"Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover," Coyne said in a statement.

Bourdais raced in Formula One in 2008-09. He's sixth on IndyCar's career victory list with 35.

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