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Cavs sign Wiggins, who can't be traded for 30 days

CLEVELAND (AP) Andrew Wiggins has an NBA home. Maybe a temporary one. The Cavaliers signed the No. 1 overall draft pick Thursday, a deal that prevents Wiggins from being traded for 30 days. Wiggins has been linked to a possible blockbuster trade with Minnesota for All-Star forward Kevin Love. But any deal now involving Wiggins can't be finalized for at least 30 days. The Cavs and Timberwolves have had talks about a trade involving Love for months, long before Cleveland selected Wiggins, the former Kansas standout, with the first pick in May's draft. Those discussions have intensified lately, and the sides can still reach an agreement on a trade but nothing can be finalized until late August. Now that Wiggins is under contract, the league's seldom-used 30-day rule is in effect. It was designed to prevent teams from circumventing salary cap rules. There have been restrictions placed on trading newly signed rookies dating back at least to the 1998-99 collective bargaining agreement. At that time, rookies were lumped in with all free agents into a rule that prevents any newly signed player from being traded for three months or before Dec. 15 of the next season - whichever is longer. The rule was modified in the 2005 CBA, separating rookie contracts into a different category with the shorter, 30-day timeline between signing date and trade eligibility. The spirit behind the rule is that if a rookie is traded immediately after he signs, it gives the appearance that the acquiring team is the one that is in fact signing him. Cleveland's decision to sign Wiggins actually makes it easier to trade him. Before his deal, he had zero value on the salary cap but his contract - worth $5.5 million - could allow the Cavs to clear enough room to take on a player like Love, who is sent to earn $15.7 million next season. Minnesota has received offers from other teams, including the Chicago Bulls, who reached out to the Timberwolves this week, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who requested anonymity because the teams were not publicly commenting on the process. With Wiggins unable to be moved by Cleveland for a month, it's possible other teams may approach the Timberwolves to make a run at Love, a double-double machine and arguably the league's top power forward. Love is entering his final year under contract in Minnesota and has said he does not intend to sign a long-term deal with the Timberwolves. Golden State has also shown interest in the 25-year-old Love. But the Warriors have refused to include guard Klay Thompson in any offer, which has been a deal-breaker for the Timberwolves. Cleveland had been reluctant to include Wiggins in a package for Love, but the team has softened its stance and may be willing to part with the 6-foot-8 forward with the 44-inch vertical leap. The Cavs are interested in bringing in Love to form a "Big 3" with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. That trio would make the Cavs an overwhelming favorite in the Eastern Conference, and potentially put them in position to win the city's first major sports championship since 1964. Cleveland also signed rookie Joe Harris, taken with the first pick (No. 33 overall) of the second round. Harris, who played at West Virginia, averaged 7.8 points in four summer league games in Las Vegas. As the Wiggins-Love situation drags on, the Cavs continue to re-shape their roster. The team is interested in signing free agent Ray Allen, who has spent the past two seasons in Miami with James. On Thursday, the agency representing Allen knocked down a report that the NBA's career 3-pointer leader was leaning toward joining the Cavaliers. Allen's agent, Jim Tanner, wrote on his Tandem Sports & Entertainment twitter account that reports Allen "intends to play for the Cavs are unfounded. He has not yet decided if he will play next season or for which team."

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 03:02:00 +0000
Blake Griffin withdraws from US national team

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin has withdrawn from playing for the U.S. national basketball team this summer. The Los Angeles Clippers star was one of 19 players selected to the roster from which the World Cup team will be chosen. Griffin said Thursday that he wants to dedicate all his energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming NBA season. Griffin joins Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook in not participating. Westbrook dropped out to rest previous knee injuries. The Americans begin training camp Monday in Las Vegas, a month before the World Cup of Basketball opens in Spain.

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:07:00 +0000
AP source: Gordon to meet with league Aug. 1

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns may soon learn whether they'll have Josh Gordon this season. The Pro Bowl wide receiver will have an appeal hearing with NFL officials in New York on Aug. 1, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. The game-breaking playmaker is facing a possible one-year ban for violating the league's substance abuse policy for at least the third time. Gordon, who had a history of marijuana abuse in college, was suspended for the first two games last season. He still led the NFL with 1,646 yards receiving. The 23-year-old player is expected to report to training camp Friday and he'll be on the field Saturday as the Browns have their first practice under new coach Mike Pettine. According to reports, Gordon recently checked himself into rehab following an arrest in North Carolina. ESPN's Adam Shefter said Gordon spent two weeks at a facility in California. The Browns have been patiently waiting for a resolution on Gordon's playing status, and his uncertain future has left a cloud over the team. The Browns first learned of a potential extended suspension on the second day of the NFL draft in May. The ESPN report doused the optimism created after the Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since 1999, drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel. On Wednesday, Pettine told the AP he's not consumed with worry about whether he'll have Gordon. "The frustration has really faded," Pettine said. "It's just something that's there. It's equivalent of having that file folder with all the answers in it and it's sitting there ready to go. It's just got a lot of dust. We're just waiting to hear from the league and we'll act accordingly." If Gordon loses his appeal, he could be banned by Commissioner Roger Goodell for a minimum of one year. He would then have to apply for re-instatement. Gordon has complicated his case with two recent legal infractions. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated after speeding down a street in Raleigh, North Carolina, last month. In May, he was ticketed for speeding in Ohio, and a passenger in his car was cited for marijuana possession. Pettine said the Browns have no plans to release Gordon. The team intends to support him and give him any help he may need. "Josh is a Cleveland Brown and we want what's best for him and we want what's best for us," Pettine said. "He's smart. He's bright. He's creative. He's a guy that in a lot of ways that you root for." --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:50:00 +0000
Punished Priefer: 'I went way below the bar'

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings could hardly hold training camp without some kind of controversy or sideshow. This version came with quite the twist: special teams coordinator Mike Priefer in the spotlight. As players unpacked their vehicles carrying necessities and diversions for the three-week stay at Minnesota State University, signing autographs for clamoring purple-clad fans in this annual rite of reporting day, the usual prominent figures stepped to a makeshift podium for questions from the media outside the team's temporary residence. This time, Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler were among the interview subjects. Strange, yes, but part of the process following former punter Chris Kluwe's complaint that Priefer taunted him two years ago with homophobic language. The Vikings commissioned an outside investigation that lasted six months and last week announced a three-game suspension for Priefer. An unsatisfied Kluwe vowed a lawsuit, but his attorney has held off on filing it while continuing to talk with the team's lawyer about a settlement. "In this situation, with my comment, I've failed. I didn't just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize," Priefer said. According to a summary of the report released by the Vikings, Loeffler corroborated to the investigators Kluwe's claim that Priefer made a vicious anti-gay remark in their presence. Priefer was trying to agitate Kluwe, who became a supporter for same-sex marriage rights as Minnesota considered in 2012 a constitutional amendment to ban it. The amendment was voted down. Loeffler said he never believed Priefer was being serious that day at practice. "I always thought it was a joke. They both laughed about it," Loeffler said. Kluwe and Loeffler were friends during their eight years together on the team, but Loeffler said Thursday he has not spoken with Kluwe since the outspoken ex-punter revealed in January his allegations of a bigoted atmosphere around the team and claimed he was cut prior to last season for his views and advocacy. As for having to testify to the investigators against his position coach, Loeffler denied any hesitancy or awkwardness. "I just told the truth, as the Vikings wanted me to tell the truth. They've been supportive throughout the process and it wasn't hard for me at all," he said. General manager Rick Spielman clarified that Priefer's suspension will take effect with the start of the regular season, and he won't be allowed at team headquarters during that time. Priefer will take sensitivity training classes through an outside firm during the first week of his ban, and the team will decide whether or not to reduce his punishment to two games. Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have been considering options for fulfilling Priefer's responsibilities while he's away, but they weren't ready to reveal the plan. Spielman said the suspension came directly from owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf. "I can't tell you how much I respect him, not only as a family man and as a person but also as a football coach. He's made a mistake and he owned up to that mistake and he's going to serve his suspension, and then we're going to move on," Spielman said. Neither Spielman nor Zimmer answered directly whether they considered firing Priefer, before or after the investigation was complete. Priefer initially denied making the remark, but he relented in a subsequent interview with the investigators. Neither Spielman nor Zimmer expressed any concern about Priefer's dishonesty. "I've had a chance to visit with Mike Priefer on numerous occasions, almost every single day, to find out what kind of person he is. I knew his father. I know what kind of family guy is. He made a mistake. So I just go by what I see. I don't go by what I hear," Zimmer said. Priefer's voice seemed to crack at one point during his session with reporters: "I feel like I let my family down," he said. The coach declined to speak about other issues pertaining to the investigation, including Kluwe's claim that he made multiple homophobic remarks. Priefer said he hoped his news conference was the beginning of a rebuilding of his credibility. He also said he wasn't worried about losing his job. "I learned a hard lesson. I've got to be sensitive to other people in what I say, and that's not going to happen again," Priefer said. Football was still at least part of the theme Thursday, with players required to pass a conditioning test in order to be cleared for the first practice Friday. "It's a distraction today, but tomorrow, I'll be focused on football," Zimmer said. Star running back Adrian Peterson was eager for Zimmer's first camp. "I expect it to be tough. He's a hard-headed guy, and he expects the best from us," Peterson said. --- AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:06:00 +0000
Twins trade 1B Kendrys Morales to Mariners

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kendrys Morales is on his way back to Seattle to try and give the Mariners' struggling offense a boost as they chase a playoff spot. The Minnesota Twins traded Morales to the Mariners on Thursday for minor-league pitcher Stephen Pryor. Morales hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the Mariners last season, but turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle to become a free agent. "He's a professional hitter," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He gives us the opportunity to stretch out our lineup, so to speak. He's a nice fit, switch-hitter, hitting behind Robbie (Cano). "He gives us options, what we want to do with (Kyle) Seager, where we want to hit him," McClendon said. "I like it." Morales sat out the first two months of the season while searching for a new deal, signing a pro-rated $12 million contract with the Twins on June 8. But he hit .234 with 11 doubles, one homer and 18 RBIs in 39 games with the Twins, who have faded from contention in the AL Central. The Mariners, who started the day with a half-game lead for the second wild-card spot in the AL, are hoping a return to Safeco Field could help Morales rediscover his swing. Seattle has the best ERA in the majors, but the Mariners offense is 14th in the American League in runs scored. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said missing spring training and the first two months of the season has had an impact on Morales' slow start. He believes he's close to his hitting stride. "I don't think there is any question about that," Zduriencik said. "I thought it was interesting that he went right to the big leagues but that plays a part in the negotiations. "Nevertheless, when you look at where he's at right now, we know what Kendrys is, we know his career as a hitter, we know what he did here and now that he's in a pennant race and technically has spring training under his belt - he did it at the major league level - I think we all feel that Kendrys is going to hit his stride and be the Kendrys Morales we all know," he added. Morales was signed by the Twins to be the everyday designated hitter, but he played a lot of first base while filling in for the injured Joe Mauer. "I think he was a good teammate. I think he was a good influence on some of the players in this clubhouse. He got off to a surprisingly quick start and then cooled off, of course," Twins GM Terry Ryan said. "We gave it a shot. Obviously, our club hasn't responded." In the first sign that the Twins are starting to look at selling some of their veteran pieces to retool for next season, they acquired the 25-year-old Pryor in the exchange. Pryor has appeared in 34 games for the Mariners since 2012, posting a 2.81 ERA. He will report to Triple-A Rochester. Pryor, who once regularly had his pitches clocked at 100 mph, started this season on the disabled list after having surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle. He made one appearance for the Mariners this season. He was 2-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in 34 2-3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma this season. The Twins also recalled infielder Jorge Polanco from Class A Fort Myers.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:20:00 +0000
Smith plans to meet soon with Commissioner Goodell

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith expects to sit down with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "in the near future" to discuss any potential suspension for his off-field issues. Smith was sentenced last Friday to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges. Smith said he hasn't had time to begin the work yet, and will do so as his time permits. Of the ruling, Smith said he is "glad how it worked out." He didn't want to guess whether he would face a suspension from the league, and said he is unsure whether Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game penalty Thursday for his offseason arrest for domestic violence provides any indication. "I'm glad it's behind me. I'm ready to move on. ... I've never been in this situation so I'm not going to speculate," Smith said of possible punishment. "I know I'm meeting with him in the near future - as soon as possible. We don't have a solid date, so I'm not sure." Smith said he has been sober since entering rehab last year following his Sept. 20 DUI arrest. He underwent treatment at an in-patient facility and missed five games. Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Thursday whether he thought the NFL might take the rehab stint into account as time served. "Going through a process, which is, there's accountability for some mistakes made. And also he's been given the opportunity to do what he says he's going to do. So far he's doing that," Harbaugh said. "That's in their hands. They will discipline if they warrant it." Tight end Vernon Davis said before the team's first practice that his desire for a new contract is no longer a focus and he will leave that to the team and his agent to discuss. "That's in the past, I'm not really worried about the contract," he said. "That's between the team and my agent. That's not my focus right now. My focus is out here, trying to get better." Of being fined up to $70,000 for missing the mandatory minicamp last month, Davis said, "I'm sure they did, absolutely." So, why did he sit out the offseason program with two years remaining on his current deal? "It was a very easy decision. All you have to do is think about the team," Davis said. "That's what I did. I thought about my teammates, especially some of the guys like Frank Gore, guys that they're on the last end of their contract. There's nothing like being here." For Smith, he hopes 2014 is a fresh start - and he insists he is in the best shape ever entering his fourth NFL season. In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said the 24-year-old Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house. Yet, what Smith brings on the field makes him one of the NFL's best at pressuring quarterbacks. Smith emerged as one of the league's most-feared pass rushers in 2012. He had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks that year, but failed to record a sack in his final six games including the team's postseason Super Bowl run. Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games last season, making eight starts. His 42 sacks are second-most in the NFL since he entered the league. Harbaugh, for one, is only thinking about another year and another opportunity for success after three straight seasons coming oh so close. "It's like it's your own birthday. It's a family reunion. It's like a rebirth, feel like you come out of the womb and reborn into football," Harbaugh said in his first news conference at new Levi's Stadium. "And definitely having Vernon there added to that. Everybody sees their friends, sees their family, haven't seen them for a month or so as we've been apart after the minicamp. ... "Our team is the least unhappy team I've ever been around." NOTES: Rookie first-round pick S Jimmie Ward made a diving interception on a tipped pass by Colin Kaepernick. "If I keep making plays like that I'm going to be seen," Ward said. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:54:00 +0000
Frank Lampard joins New York City FC of MLS

NEW YORK (AP) The newest team in Major League Soccer is doing its part to fill Yankee Stadium with stars. New York City FC introduced Frank Lampard in Brooklyn on Thursday after signing the 36-year-old former Chelsea midfielder to a two-year contract. "Why not New York? Talk about ticking all the boxes. I want to carry on challenging myself." Lampard said at a news conference . "That's a great challenge, isn't it? City of hopes and dreams. That's where you want to go to and play isn't it?" The club owned by Manchester City of the Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball previously signed David Villa of Atletico Madrid. Both City and Atletico won league championships last year, meaning the expansion soccer team set to begin playing home games at the ballpark in 2015 is also bringing more champions to the Bronx than Yankee Stadium's full-time tenants have lately. The news conference was held at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where several soccer fields share space on a pier in the East River across from Lower Manhattan. A couple dozen fans, many in blue Chelsea jerseys, gathered around to listen, at times cheering and getting laughs from the dais, where Lampard was flanked by club sporting director Claudio Reyna , chief business officer Tim Pernetti, and coach Jason Kreis. Lampard, who has scored 211 goals for England and Chelsea, became the latest international star to move to MLS. Most famous was David Beckham, who joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid. "I think this is an incredibly exciting time for the league," Kreis said. Lampard is "a rare talent, one that scores a lot of goals from midfield, yet is also a disciplined defender and someone who reads the game brilliantly." Lampard was asked about a widely reported encounter with American travelers in 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when he and teammates were fined following reports they were behaving drunkenly and boorishly in front of the distraught Americans. "I was naive and a young boy at the time and I have some regrets," Lampard said. "I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or in fact anyone. I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to build up - well, to just be a good man really and not just be a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch. ... Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that." Lampard, speaking with the skyline behind him across the river, said he "of course" plans to visit the Sept. 11 memorial. "You visit this great city, you know what it means to New Yorkers. I think you go and pay your respects, so yes I will," he said. Kreis said the team examined the situation and considers the matter resolved. His newest player is someone with strong feelings about New York. "I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that," Lampard said. "It's up to me to show them here and prove the footballer I am and the person that I am."

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:45:00 +0000
Cowboys' Romo happy to spend hours nursing back

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) Tony Romo paused to add up how long it would take to coddle his surgically repaired back on the first day of training camp. The final tally for the 34-year-old Dallas Cowboys quarterback was about four hours. Romo isn't worried about getting hit. He thinks he can play several more years, even joking Thursday that he'll still be taking snaps when he's 45. But he knows he will have to alter his routine significantly after a herniated disk in a season-saving win at Washington led to back surgery that forced him out of a loss in a playoffs-or-bust finale against Philadelphia. Romo said he spent about 2 1/2 hours before the first full practice on stretching and other work on his back, and he anticipated at least another hour or so before he went to bed. The extra care probably won't take that long all the time, but there will be at least a little something every day. "That's what I have to do and I have no problem doing that," Romo said. "I love the game and it's going to be something that's easy to do to make sure that you're always in good health." The Cowboys are easing into the practice routine to try to cut down on injuries, mostly hamstring problems that have plagued the team the past two years. Not only did they skip most of the offense-on-defense work in the first full practice, but Romo shut down the throwing long before the practice was over. "It's not to save the arm," Romo said. "I am excited about going full go shortly. We'll go up against the defense in a day or two and I am excited to be out there and rip them a little bit." And Romo is thinking about more than just being healthy. He's going into his eighth full season as the starter talking like his prime is in his future rather than his past. "I've said it before but I think over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me that I've had throughout my career," Romo said. "That's for a lot of different reasons. As my body continues to get healthier and healthier, it's going to be better." The Cowboys will need a healthy Romo if they want to end a rare four-year playoff drought. The last three of those ended with losses to NFC East rivals when Dallas had a chance to make the playoffs. And the most recent one ended with Romo watching from home just two days after back surgery. Tight end Jason Witten, a high draft pick for Dallas the same year Romo signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003, never doubted Romo would be back in charge. And Romo's favorite target isn't thinking about his quarterback being one hard hit away from more back trouble. "I am not curious to see. I know what the guy is made of," Witten said. "I don't think any of us are looking at this and saying we have to protect him because he's fragile. He's better than he's been because he's taken care of that." Even though the throws were limited, there wasn't any question that Romo was the first-team quarterback in camp drills after that role was filled by backup Brandon Weeden while Romo worked back into shape during the offseason. "Whenever he's been out, had an injury, on the sidelines and can't play, it's killing him," coach Jason Garrett said. "So he's dying to play and he's dying to do everything he can to be back 100 percent so he can play as well as he can for us. It's an exciting day for him. You can see it out there. You can see it on his face." And the medical staff can see it in the training room. NOTES: CB Brandon Carr didn't make the trip to California so he could attend to a family health issue. Garrett said there was no timetable for his arrival at camp. ... Garrett said he expected G Ron Leary to be ready by Tuesday. He's out with tightness in his hamstring. ... OL Tyronne Green was released from the injured list. --- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:41:00 +0000
Canadiens agree to 4-year deal with Lars Eller

MONTREAL (AP) The Montreal Canadiens avoided arbitration with center Lars Eller, agreeing to a four-year contract with the 25-year-old Thursday. "Now it's up to me to go out and play the best hockey I can," he said in a phone interview with the Canadian Press from the airport in Toronto, where he was waiting to catch a flight home to Denmark. "This (Montreal) was the place I want to be. Four years was a term that both sides have been working on for quite some time." Eller has 45 goals and 103 points in 286 games. Eller was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Friday. He reportedly asked for $3.1 million for next season while the team offered $1.65 million. "Going to arbitration was really a last resort if all other options failed," he said. "We are very pleased to have agreed upon a long-term agreement with Lars Eller," general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "He is an important part of our group of young veterans. "He has a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He is the type of player you can rely on for his play at both ends of the rink. Lars can play big minutes against the opponents' top players and still be an offensive threat. We are confident he will reach his full potential and become an impact player who will compete at a high level for many years to come." Eller made up for disappointing regular-season production - 12 goals and 14 assists in 77 games - with a strong playoff performance. He had five goals and eight assists in 17 games as the Canadiens advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. But he said the team was basing its decision on more than the playoffs. "Of course it's been a very mixed season for me performance-wise. Certainly my playoffs probably helped my situation, there's no doubt about that. But this goes longer than just one playoff. I've been here for four years now. ... They know what they have in me and I know what I have in them."

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:07:00 +0000
Pucker up! NASCAR returns to Brickyard

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Dale Jarrett loved his win so much he had to celebrate it with a kiss. His impromptu smooch with the bricks in 1996 has blossomed into a tradition for drivers of all series when they win at the famed Brickyard. It's time to pucker up again: NASCAR runs its 21st Sprint Cup race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jarrett started a love affair that lasts to this day, and has crossed racing series all the way to the Indianapolis 500. Back in '96, Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott kneeled down and planted a big ol' kiss on the bricks that serve as the start-finish line at the venerable speedway. "It's something I would like to take all the credit for," said Jarrett, who also won in 1999. Winners of the Indy 500 usually drink milk after the race. Jarrett and Parrott had discussed the idea for a new celebration at a track steeped in history should they win the race. But by the time Jarrett grabbed the checkered flag in only NASCAR's second year at the track, he forgot about sealing the win with a kiss. Like a good crew chief, Parrott again made the right call. "Todd grabbed me and said, `Hey, remember what we talked about?' It wasn't until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little different," Jarrett said. "We hadn't told any of the crew or anything like that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the yard of bricks." And now, every driver from Ryan Newman (last year's Brickyard winner) to Ryan Hunter-Reay (this year's Indy 500 winner) kneel down and plant one on the row of bricks. "It's pretty cool now to see that every race winner and their teams," Jarrett said. "Of course it's a lot more orchestrated now than what it was at that time because we took everybody by surprise. But to even see the guys that win the Indy 500 go out and be a part of it, it's pretty cool to know you started a tradition that will probably carry on for a long time." It's just a small slice of what makes racing at Indy so special. The Brickyard may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR's schedule - the Daytona 500 is still No. 1 - but it's close. "It's definitely the biggest win of my career," said Ricky Rudd, the 1997 winner. "I was never fortunate enough to be able to win at Daytona. I'd probably put them in that order, Daytona out front. Right in there would be Indy. If I wasn't able to win Daytona, at least I got Indy." NASCAR first kicked the tires of running in Indianapolis in the early 1990s. By 1992, the stock car series was ready to take a dip in the Indy pool with two days of tire testing. An estimated 30,000 fans at the speedway chanted "we want a race" as the cars roared from the pit past a hand-lettered sign, "Indy fans love NASCAR." In 1993, former IMS President Tony George extended the official invitation for NASCAR to come aboard. On Aug. 4, 1994, NASCAR hit the track for its first practice on the 2 1/2-mile track. Cup veteran Ken Schrader was the first driver to complete a lap. Greg Sacks was the first to bring out a yellow flag as his engine burst just minutes into the opening session. Tim Steele became the first to crunch his car against the speedway's concrete walls in an official practice. So it began - and there was no turning back. IMS later added Formula One, Grand-Am, and motorcycles to the racing schedule. The Indy 500 is still the undisputed king race of the track. But NASCAR sure has made it known stock cars have as much a place at the track as a nice swig of milk. "It's the win that keeps coming," said 2000 winner Bobby Labonte. "You haven't been forgotten. I'll just put it this way: I don't have many trophies in my house, there's like two, and one is the Brickyard trophy. Kind of shows you where I put that, if that makes sense to you." It sure does to any driver in NASCAR.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:40:00 +0000