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Two Blue Ridge teams emerged from last week in sole possession of their division leads and a third took an impressive path to a share of first place.
The Blue Ridge baseball team improved to 3-0, making it the last unbeaten in Division 3 of the Lackawanna League.
The Raiders ripped defending champion Mountain View, 13-3, then got past Elk Lake, 8-5, Thursday.
Elk Lake entered Thursday's game with a share of first place and now joins Carbondale, Susquehanna and Montrose in a four-way tie for second place at 2-1.
The Blue Ridge boys' volleyball team won three straight tense games to sweep a match from Mountain View with first place in the Lackawanna League on the line.
The Raiders improved to 4-0 while dropping the Eagles into second place at 3-1.
Blue Ridge's softball team is in its usual dominant position while seeking a third straight unbeaten finish in Division 3 of the Lackawanna League.
The Lady Raiders are unscored on in three league games while sharing first place with Carbondale.
After posting 10-0 romps over Montrose and Mountain View, the two teams currently tied for third at 2-1, Blue Ridge had a tougher time in a 3-0 win over Elk Lake Thursday.
The only runs the Lady Raiders have allowed were in a 4-2 non-league win at Athens.
The only other Susquehanna County high school team currently in first place needed to get past Blue Ridge to reach that point.
Elk Lake is 4-0 in girls' track after beating the Lady Raiders (3-1). Lackawanna Trail is also unbeaten at 3-0.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre professional sports franchises had a strong week.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins clinched their second American Hockey League East Division title Saturday night.
Hershey’s 5-2 victory over second-place Philadelphia helped the Penguins take the title even though they lost, 3-2, to Norfolk in overtime in their season finale.
The Penguins finished 47-26-3-4.
In arena football, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers ran their home winning streak to 13 games Friday night when they won their af2 home opener, 33-20, over the Mahoning Valley Thunder.
The Pioneers are 2-1 a year after advancing to the af2 championship game.
Michaux Robinson intercepted two passes and broke up three others to lead the Pioneers, who also benefited from four sacks while the Thunder did not have any.
“You could see our defensive line getting pressure,” Robinson said. “You definitely could see the lopsidedness on offense.
“We had better protection.”
In minor-league baseball, the defending champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees lost, then regained the North Division lead with a 7-3 record.
Dominick Lucenti left football and wrestling behind at Montrose and found a new sport when he got to college.
In just his second season in the sport, Lucenti is in the starting lacrosse lineup at College Misericordia as a sophomore defender.
Lucenti played in nine games, making seven starts, as Misericordia opened the season with a 3-7 record.
A year ago, Lucenti earned a letter by picking up significant playing time in six games for a 6-7 team.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Blue Ridge's early lead in softball will face a challenge Monday, April 21 in a game at Carbondale.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins open the Calder Cup playoffs at Hershey against the Bears Wednesday night. The Penguins return home for games Saturday and Sunday.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
JOHNSON GETS FIRST WIN OF ’08, Avondale, AZ – A fuel gamble in Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 allowed Jimmie Johnson to get his first Sprint Cup win of 2008. The defending Cup champion nursed his No. 48 Chevrolet across the finish line a little over 7 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer.
Jimmie Johnson celebrates his win at Phoenix.
Danny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, points leader Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch were the remaining top-10 finishers.
After all the other contenders except Bowyer had pitted for fuel in the closing laps, crew chief, Chad Knaus instructed Johnson to pit with eight laps remaining in the 312-lap race. But after another brief discussion, Knaus changed his mind, and radioed to Johnson, “Screw it. We'll go for it.”
Knaus spent the remaining eight laps slowing Johnson down, because none of the other drivers had time to catch up. As Johnson entered turn-3 on the final lap, Knaus ordered him to, “Put it in neutral!”
Johnson took the victory, but had to be pushed to victory lane after his fuel tank finally ran dry.
The win ended an eight-race dry spell for Johnson, winner of 10 races in 2007.
Mark Martin, saw victory slip away after he was called into the pits for fuel with 10 laps remaining.
At the time of his final pit stop on Lap 302, Martin was enjoying a comfortable lead on the one-mile oval after passing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 273. But unfortunately for Martin, his No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet was in need of fuel to make it to the checkered flag.
“You hate to see it come down that way,” added Martin, who led a total of 68 laps. “But you also don’t want to run out of fuel with one lap to go and finish 20th in a race that you’ve been up front the entire time. Again, it was a great run and this is a great race team. It won't be our last chance to win.”
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who has now gone winless in 70 races, ran up front most of the night, but like other teams, he decided to pit for fuel late in the race.
“We were running good, but right there at the end I think I just drove the tires off it,” said Earnhardt. “I was losing ground.
“Jimmie’s crew told us they were going to try and make it on fuel. For us, it was too much of a gamble just to try for second place. We did the smart thing and came in. He already had us beat on the track.”
There was little flash for Tony Stewart. He started the race 12th, flirted with the top-10 for much of the event, and wound up 14th.
Top-10 Chase Contenders after 8 of 36: 1. Burton-1215, 2. Kyle Busch-1135, 3. Earnhardt-1129, 4. Johnson-1116, 5. Harvick-1115, 6. Hamlin-1078, 7. Stewart-1057, 8. Bowyer-1044, 9. Edwards-1041, 10. Biffle-1039.
Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 8 of 35: 1. Bowyer-1189, 2. Edwards-1165, 3. Kyle Busch-1083, 4. Ragan-1068, 5. Reutimann-1065, 6. Keselowski-1011, 7. Bliss-998, 8. Harvick-977, 9. Leffler-962, 10. Bires-926.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 4 of 25: 1. Kyle Busch-645, 2. Bodine-610, 3. Hornaday-580, 4. Setzer-578, 5. Crawford-576, 6. Crafton-539, 7. Starr-534, 8. Darnell-527, 9. Benson-501, 10. Cook-499.
Dale Earnhardt’s Race To The Top – After his father died at the age of 45, Earnhardt dealt with his grief and got back on the track as quick as he could. It’s hard to say whether his rise to fame would have been easier with his father’s help.
His attitude was, race as fast as you can, go to the front, and damn the consequences. Even though he had a wife and two babies, he was always able to get enough money to race on.
“Racing cost me my second marriage for the things I took away from my family,” he said in a 1995 newspaper article.
His first Winston Cup race was the 1975 Memorial Day 600 at Charlotte. He drove a Dodge for Ed Negre and finished 22nd. Another new driver, Richard Childress was 23rd. Negre did not have the money to continue funding a car for Earnhardt to drive, so it ended up being a one-race deal.
After the 600-mile race at Charlotte, he hung out at other garages, drove his own Sportsman car, and looked for another ride. He had two more races in 1976, and one in 1977.
By the end of 1977, his second marriage was gone. He had to return to his mother’s house and live in a trailer in her backyard.
Early into the 1978 season, a California car owner, named Rod Osterlund was looking for another driver. Dave Marcis was the current driver. He had many top-10 finishes, but Osterland wanted to win races.
Earnhardt was his man. After signing on with Osterland, he ran two races in 1978, finishing second in Charlotte and fourth at Atlanta.
Earnhardt finally had someone behind him with the money needed to win.
On April Fool’s Day, 1979, he led 160 laps at Bristol for his first and only win of the year.
In the fifth race of the 1980 season at Atlanta, he won by 9 seconds over Rusty Wallace. At Bristol, he won over Darrell Waltrip by 8 seconds.
The 1980 battle for the championship went down to the last race of the season at Riverside, CA, between Cale Yarborough and Earnhardt. When the checkered flag was given, the title belonged to Earnhardt. He finished the season just 19 points ahead of Yarborough
Just two years after being hounded by creditors, his 1980 winnings amounted to $588,926.
Earnhardt approached Richard Childress in 1981. Wrangler was the sponsor on his car, but Earnhardt wanted out of his racing deal with car owner J. D. Stacey.
“When it was over, I was in debt $150,000,” Childress said in the book, “Intimidator.” “I was in worse shape than I was to start with. Wrangler came back and helped us out, but I had to hock and finance everything I had to make it work.”
That was the beginning of one of the most successful partnerships, as well as friendships in the history of NASCAR racing.
In 1986, he won his second Winston Cup championship and the first for Richard Childress.
The following year, he won back-to-back titles for his third crown overall.
His fourth title in 1990 was controversial, as runner-up Mark Martin forfeited 46 points earlier in the season due to a rule’s infraction. Earnhardt won by 24 points.
In 1991, he finished with four wins and 21 top-10s for his fifth title.
He clinched his sixth championship in the final race of the season at Atlanta.
His seventh and last title, which tied him for the most championships with Richard Petty, came in 1994.
Just before the 2001 Daytona 500 race had ended, Earnhardt was gone. He died after sliding up and hitting the outside wall.
His fans still remember him. He meant a lot to so many people.
Next Week: Petty Racing at The Crossroads.
The only racing next weekend is the Sunday road race in Mexico City for the Nationwide Series. It will be televised on ESPN, beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST). The Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck teams have an off weekend.
Racing Trivia Question: Which team does Alan Gustafson crew chief for?
Last Week’s Question: Does Richard Childress plan on adding a fourth Cup team in 2009? Answer: Yes, he will add a fourth team. It has not been decided who the driver will be, but the sponsor is going to be General Mills.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: email@example.com.
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