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The favorite time of year for many Pennsylvania sports fans is right around the corner.
The signs that football season is coming are available on just about every level.
Montrose graduate Chris Snee is preparing to report to New York Giants camp in Albany Thursday for the start of his second professional season.
The best high school football players from Pennsylvania and Ohio started their transition into college football Saturday night when they played in the Big 33 Football Classic in Hershey.
The best of the local high school football graduates began practice for the 71st annual Dream Game August 3. And, the Dream Game provides an annual reminder that the first official day of practice - scheduled for August 15 this year - is just around the corner.
Snee's time at Giants camp will be about completing the transformation from dominant run blocker to well-rounded National Football League offensive lineman.
"I want to develop my entire game," said Snee, a 6-foot-2, 314-pounder who won a starting spot early in training camp and started 11 straight games as a rookie guard before being sidelined by an illness. "I want to take my game to the next level."
Snee said the rookie season was about showing he could compete. The former all-state lineman at Montrose and second-round draft pick out of Boston College showed that.
"If I had a strength it was run-blocking," Snee said, "but my pass blocking has come a long way since the power-I days at Montrose.
"I want to be balanced, but I suppose everyone has a part of their game that they consider their strength."
Snee goes into training camp as the Giants' likely starter at right guard.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Hershey -- Between Montrose and Boston College, Snee stopped in Hershey for an impressive performance in the Big 33 Game.
The future stars of the sport were at HersheyPark Stadium Saturday for the latest game in the series, which has produced at least one player in every Super Bowl ever played.
Ohio jumped out to a 21-point, first-quarter lead but then needed Bryan Williams to knock down a fourth-down pass at the goal line with 55 seconds left to preserve a 34-28 victory over Pennsylvania.
The deflection by Williams came five plays after an apparent Brad Jones interception was wiped out by a penalty. The game was delayed for more than 10 minutes while it was determined that Ohio had used an illegal defense, according to rules in place for the annual all-star game pitting the top 33 graduating high school football players from each state.
"I was so nervous," Williams said. "It was like overtime to us when they told us we had to get back out there."
Ohio fans chanted "homers" while the penalty was being sorted out. If Pennsylvania had won on the highly questionable call, the reputation of one of the nation's top high school all-star games would have taken a serious hit.
The Ohio defense forced six turnovers and took over in the spotlight when the offense was held scoreless for the final 31:51.
Quarterback Robby Schoenhoft got Ohio out in front during a 28-point first quarter. Schoenhoft, an Ohio State recruit from Saint Xavier High School in Cincinnati, finished 11-for-20 for 267 yards and two touchdowns and was named most valuable player for the Ohio team.
Williams, a University of Pittsburgh recruit from John R. Buchtel High School in Akron, tipped one pass that was intercepted and returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Derrick Stewart. He also intercepted a pass at his 20 with 5:29 remaining.
Pennsylvania scored on three first-half pass plays of 70 yards or more. The two first-quarter touchdowns came on passes in the backfield.
Ed Collington turned a screen pass into a 70-yard touchdown from Shane Murray on the first play. LaRod Stephens-Howling, the Pennsylvania MVP, took a swing pass and broke it for a 77-yard touchdown.
Between the first two Pennsylvania touchdowns, Ohio scored four times to take a 28-7 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
Schoenhoft went 6-for-7 for 147 yards passing in the first 3:08. He stepped up to hit Mario Manningham on a post pattern for a 74-yard score then found future Ohio State teammate Brian Hartline from 23 yards.
Defense helped Ohio get its next two touchdowns. Nick Simon's fumble recovery set up a 5-yard run by Dante Love. Stewart then ran in the interception.
The game drew a paid crowd of 15,667.
In professional baseball, Montrose graduate Rich Thompson continued an up-and-down season at the plate for the Class AA Altoona Curve.
Thompson followed up a couple of days out of the lineup by hitting his second home run of the season Thursday night in a 5-4 loss at Erie.
The outfielder went 2-for-4 in the game, making him 6-for-12 with a double, homer, three runs and four RBIs in his last three games to raise his Eastern League batting average from .238 to .254. Thompson was 4-for-5 July 16 in an 11-5 win at Harrisburg.
Including his time at Class AAA Indianapolis to start the season, Thompson has 47 runs, six triples and is 35-for-39 stealing bases this season for the two Pittsburgh Pirates farm teams.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BUSCH And Roush Take Pocono, Long Pond, PA – Kurt Busch, the defending Nextel Cup champion, along with teammates Mark Martin and Carl Edwards swept three of the top-five spots in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.
“This is sweet,” said Busch. “It’s a great win and it’s what we needed to get things back on track.”
Busch led 131 of the 203 laps, but he had to overcome a couple of rough pit stops and a green-white-checkered finish to get his first Pocono win.
He passed Rusty Wallace for the lead on Lap 183 and held on despite three cautions in the final 10 laps and a green-white-checkered finish for an additional three laps.
After the final green flag was given, Kasey Kahne got bumped into the wall by Carl Edwards. The field stayed under green until Busch had gone under the white flag ahead of Wallace and third-place Mark Martin, but the yellow came out for debris off Kahne's Dodge after that, effectively ending the race.
None of the late-race bumping and banging affected the ultimate outcome. Busch was the class of the field, and his Ford wound up in Victory Lane.
“Man, that was a good one, no doubt about it,” said Wallace. “Those starts were killing me. We gained a few points today. This was a tough place and we got out here clean.”
Mark Martin, who finished third, challenged Wallace for the lead, but each time he started to make a run, a caution came out.
“We had a real good car,” said Martin. “The last set of tires just didn’t seem to want to run good. We were so set on strategy and then they had to have 50 cautions there at the end.”
Carl Edwards, winner of the June 12 race at Pocono came in fourth.
“The team did a great job, and it was a perfect day,” he said. “But the deal with Kasey (Kahne) really ruined our day. It was an accident and it ruined his day, but I feel terrible about it.”
Greg Biffle had a cut tire late in the race and after pitting finished 17th. The poor finish caused Biffle to slip one spot in the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team were finally able to overcome early handling problems, but he still finished 32nd, two laps down.
Polesitter Jamie McMurray was 11th.
Finishing order: 1. Kurt Busch, 2. Rusty Wallace, 3. Mark Martin, 4. Carl Edwards, 5. Ryan Newman, 6. Kevin Harvick, 7. Tony Stewart, 8. Bobby Labonte, 9. Mike Bliss, 10. Ricky Rudd.
Current Chase For The Nextel Cup Contenders: 1. Johnson-2799, 2. Stewart-2733, 3. Biffle-2712, 4. R. Wallace-2617, 5. Busch-2537, 6. Newman-2507, 7. Martin-2490, 8. Mayfield-2394, 9. Sadler-2391, 10. 2372.
JARRETT Is In Line For The Chase – Dale Jarrett started full-time in the Winston Cup Series in 1987. He is the 1999 Winston Cup Series champion and has won 31 races, including three Daytona 500s.
But his team has had more downs than ups in the past few years. He has not won any races this year and despite what some call a mediocre season, he is currently in a very tight Race to the Chase.
“Well, the season has been, I would call it average at best,” he said. “We haven't obviously performed the way that we would like. If we had been, we would be further up into the top 10. But, you know, we've had good weekends and then a lot of just what I call, again, average weekends to where we found our selves racing from 12th to 16th a lot, getting a lot of finishes in there.
“I think that's been the key so far, is that we have finished, though we haven't a lot of problems as far as mechanical problems go or getting involved in accidents. We've made the most of what we've done so far. We realize in these next six races that we have to step our program up.
“But we still know that in these last six races, if we're going to make the top 10, then we're going to have to finish somewhere around that top 10 every week. If not, we've got guys that are coming hard from behind us and there are guys in front of us that are running in that top 10 every week unless they have a problem. We've got to do our job. It is of utmost importance in these last seven that we keep that streak going of finishing every race and doing our very best to finish on the lead lap. That will be the key to giving us a chance.”
When asked what he planned to do during the off week, he replied:
“I'm really looking forward to it. As far as free time, yeah, it won't be at the racetrack. My 15-year-old daughter Carson has her AAU Nationals starting in Roanoke, Virginia.
“They actually start this Saturday. I'll be there on Monday as soon as I can get there after Pocono, spend probably Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at those.
“Then on Thursday my 10-year-old son Zach, his team won their district in baseball for the All-Star team, so they're playing in the North Carolina State finals or tournament starting Thursday night just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. I'll be there Thursday, Friday and Saturday at least, spending time with the kids, it will be a lot of fun.”
Top-10 Busch Series points leaders: 1. Truex-3006, 2. Bowyer-2884, 3. Sorenson-2822, 4. Edwards-2687, 5. K. Wallace-2669, 6. Hamlin-2567, 7. A. Lewis-2395, 8. Stremme-2336, 9. D. Green-2327, 10. Menard-2249.
Top-10 Craftsman Trucks Series leaders: 1. Setzer-2089, 2. Musgrave-1931, 3. Hamilton-1926, 4. Hornaday-1841, 5. Spencer-1814, 6. Craven-1803, 7. Reutimann-1799, 8. Cook-1778, 9. Crafton-1758, 10. Starr-1752.
KIMMEL Gets 60th ARCA REMAX Win – Frank Kimmel’s win Saturday at Pocono Raceway was his 60th career win.
Top-10 unofficial points leaders: 1. Frank Kimmel (3380), 2. Joey Miller (3085), 3. Chad Blount (2870), 4. Ken Weaver (2585), 5. Mark Gibson (2430), 5. Chad McCumbee (2430), 7. Brandon Knupp (2330), 8. Mike Harmon (2250), 9. Jason Jarrett (2175), 10. Todd Bowsher (2155).
The only major racing this weekend will be the NASCAR Busch Series race at Madison, IL. The Nextel Cup and Craftsman Trucks have the week off.
Saturday, July 30, Busch Series Wallace Family Tribute 250, race 22 of 35, 200 laps/250 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: How many Winston Cup championships has Jeff Gordon won?
Last Week’s Question: How many career Cup wins does Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge have? Answer. He has one Cup win.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
John Andretti, driver of the No. 14 VB/Aplus at Sunoco Nextel Cup Ford, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a proposed Amendment to the Constitution that would ban desecration of the American Flag.
Andretti is the first driver in motorsports to ever testify before a major standing Congressional Committee.
“I really hope the U.S. Senate will take a hard look at it and will also pass it. In this day of ‘let’s give it an up or down vote,’ maybe we should let the states give this proposed amendment an up or down vote, and let the people decide,” said Andretti.
“Sometimes he has a hard time describing it because of the emotion, but my father has told me about seeing that flag of the United States – first as liberators in his native Italy and, later, as liberators for a new life for him and his family. The flag of the United States represented goodness and freedom, and that is a lesson he taught to his children – and a lesson I am teaching to my children.
“I visited our fighting men and women in the Middle East in December and saw, first hand, their commitment to our country and the importance the flag had to each and every one of them. For them, it was a constant reminder of who they were fighting for and a constant reminder of not just the people of the United States but also the freedoms and liberty our country stands for.
“I fly the flag at my home, 24 hours a day. And, yes, it is lighted, according to the US Flag Code, for all to see. I appreciate what the flag stands for and I know quite well what it means to the millions of Americans who follow racing. I think most of them would be surprised – if not, outraged – to learn that today, in our country, it is legal to physically desecrate the flag of the United States.
“There are those who say the flag is only a symbol, but symbols are important. Just as it was a symbol of freedom to my then eight-year-old father in Italy and, later, a symbol of opportunity to him and his family as he entered this country for the first time, it was a message.
“Early in our nation’s history, the flag of the United States was something of a signal flag. Out in front of the troops, it signaled action by our military against the forces that might otherwise overrun us. It serves as a symbol of that very notion today as American troops defend our liberties and protect our interests around the world.
“Some look at the flag and see just a piece of cloth. That perception might be acceptable, but their understanding of the flag’s value is lacking. The bits of fabric that make up the flag are only cloth, but when you pull them together in that recognized pattern, something happens. As the flag, it becomes a binding force that holds us together as one people, and those who would desecrate it are out to break that bond. Nothing tears down America more than burning the flag.
“I’m a businessman by profession and a race car driver by choice. But inside, I’m still something of a country boy from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where life is still pretty uncomplicated. To me this is an easy question to answer. We should all stand with the majority of the American people, all the state legislatures and a majority here on Capitol Hill. I don’t know anything to do except support an amendment to the Constitution that would return to the people the right to protect their flag.”
NASCAR Is Performance Based
"This is a performance-based sport," said NASCAR CEO Brian France. “But, in the end, you've got to perform. You've got to get in, you've got to earn your way in, and that's what we always said.
“The events before the Chase didn't mean less importance; it means more importance, and I think you're seeing that now."
In the wake of Busch Series driver Shane Hmiel's recent suspension at least through the 2006 season for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy for a second time, France said he is confident NASCAR is doing a good job of policing the sport.
"Number one, we do more testing than most people would realize," France continued. "We just reviewed (the policy) again, and we'll probably review it from time to time. Can we accomplish a zero-tolerance philosophy with the current policy, and do we have a policy that gets tough when we have to get tough? I don't think you can dispute (that) if you look at recent suspensions for second violations.
"We have a sport that the drivers and crew members, there's a lot of moving parts, at 200 miles an hour," he added. "We're going to have a very, very tough policy, and we have a broad policy to be able to administer anything that we think we need to with whomever we need to. We'll keep reviewing it, but we're pretty comfortable."
The current $2.6 billion television contract with Fox and NBC runs through 2006, but negotiations for a renewal have been ongoing.
"As it stands now, there's not any time urgency. Negotiations or discussions that we're having are all ahead of schedule," he said. "We're having those kind of conversations you want to have with good partners about figuring things out."
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
A lawsuit was filed last week that is going to have a big effect on the way NASCAR does business in the future.
Kentucky Speedway has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC), alleging that the two companies have violated federal anti-trust laws with the way they award Nextel Cup Series races.
It also alleges antitrust violations relating to various restraints of trade involving the NASCAR Busch Series races and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, alleges restraint of trade, claiming NASCAR reserves Cup series dates for tracks newly contracted with or purchased by ISC.
NASCAR is privately owned by the France family, while ISC is a public company, controlled by the France family.
"In my opinion, the facts clearly support a conclusion that NASCAR and ISC have colluded to exclude competition in order to financially benefit themselves," said Kentucky Speedway attorney Stan Chesley.
"By doing so, they have harmed not only Kentucky Speedway, but also all stock car racing fans nationwide."
Kentucky Speedway, located in Sparta, Ky., is a 1.5-mile oval that opened in 2000, and seats 66,000 fans for stand-alone Craftsman Truck and Busch series races.
"NASCAR and ISC's activities have harmed race fans in Ohio and Kentucky," said Steve Susman, another track attorney. "NASCAR's treatment of Kentucky Speedway makes the most egregious tactics of drivers fighting for position on the track look like a Sunday afternoon drive in the country."
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the defendants to "cease and desist from their unlawful monopolization and conspiracy;" the award of a Cup race to Kentucky Speedway in 2006; and any awards of damages to the speedway.
Speedway officials say collusion between ISC and NASCAR in awarding race dates helps to maintain NASCAR's monopoly in the market for premium stock car races and increases ISC's market power in hosting such events.
No word from NASCAR, because they have a corporate policy of not commenting on pending litigation issues.
In 2002, Francis Ferko, a shareholder in Speedway Motorsports Inc., filed a suit alleging NASCAR breached an agreement by not awarding a second Cup race to Texas Motor Speedway.
In 2004, Cup race dates were taken from North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, NC, and Darlington, SC, and races were added at Texas and Phoenix as part of an anti-trust settlement.
I feel like this lawsuit will have a long-term effect on the way NASCAR does business.
I have witnessed first-hand how NASCAR operates, and I do indeed believe they have a monopoly on racing, and it is time their stranglehold on the sport is loosened.
Older racing fans will remember how the Bell System and its subsidiary, AT&T monopolized the telephone industry. After several lawsuits similar to the one being brought by Kentucky Speedway, the giant conglomerate was broken up into smaller entities, and we now have lots of competition among rivals.
I think it would be in the best interest of teams and fans if NASCAR were forced to get rid of all but one series.
This would take away NASCAR’s bullying tactics, and each individual series (Busch, Craftsman Trucks, and other independent series like ARCA ReMax), would have a better potential than it has now.
Right now, NASCAR and their affiliate ISC is on top of the mountain, but eventually lawsuits like this one are going to force a change.
Kentucky Speedway might not get every thing they seek in this lawsuit, but NASCAR is not going to come out of it unscathed.
Sooner, or later, the federal government is going to initiate action, because NASCAR is too big, and out of control.
There are checks and balances within our legal system that is going to bring about a change within the next few years.
This is only the beginning.
Hooray for Kentucky Speedway!
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