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Ice Cube pushing for sports fans to ride along with Big3

Ice Cube pushing for sports fans to ride along with Big3

Ice Cube tweeted a Big3 clip of famous faces — fighters, NFL and NBA players, and, yes, that was Kanye West in a ski mask — that pop up at Big3 games.The brightest star of the 3-on-3 basketball league, of course, remains Ice Cube, the revolutionary rapper turned basketball businessman who returns to his roots when he performs Saturday during the Big3 slate of games in Dallas.The A-listers seem to love Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 basketball league.Can he get the rest of the sports world to respect the game?“They’re treating these athletes like they was nobody,” Ice Cube told The Associated Press. “That ain’t cool. You cheered for them. You pretended like you loved them when they were part of the NBA. When they get in a different league, you’re acting like they don’t exist? What kind of (stuff) is that? One day soon, you’ll respect the league.”After Big3 skipped last summer because of the pandemic, Ice Cube resumed the supreme hustle to help the fourth-year league find its niche — with bigger live crowds, TV ratings that pop and media coverage that treats Big3 as more than a novelty — as it navigates a season where it’s not even the only 3-on-3 game in town. Yes, halfcourt hoops made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, where the U.S. women’s team won a gold medal.“It definitely helps our effort,” Ice Cube said Wednesday. “FIBA has always controlled amateur sports and so by us having a professional version of 3-on-3, it aligns with the NBA having the professional version of 5-on-5. The stars are aligned in our favor.”How about an Olympics/Big3 alliance?“You can’t bring the Fireball to the Olympics,” he said, laughing. “Not yet. They’ll catch up.”The Big3 league leaders are familiar to hoops fans: seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson leads the league in scoring for the Triplets; and fellow former first-rounders Jason Richardson and Leandro Barbosa are also among key statistical leaders.Want equality? Lisa Leslie and Nancy Lieberman both coached teams to Big3 championships.CBS and the Paramount+ service were set to broadcast 24 games this season, and the barnstorming league heads to Milwaukee, Chicago and Las Vegas before the Sept. 4 championship game scheduled for Atlantis Paradise Island in The Bahamas.Ice Cube — who has collaborated with Dr. J and Dr. Dre — called running the Big3 “without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career.”“There are so many doubters. There’s so much opposition,” he said. “Nobody wants a new league to come in and flourish. None of the big boys. We take attention away, sponsors away.”In the wake of the pandemic, the Big3 lost its biggest sponsor in Adidas and the year off flattened the bottom line.“The thought of not coming back only came to mind when you didn’t know how long the world was going to be locked down,” Ice Cube said. “Things we should have been getting done in December and January, we couldn’t get them done until March and April. It put the league in a situation where we’re still trying to turn a profit. We believe we’ll still turn a profit faster than any league in the history of sports. We’re going to take a very short time, within five years, and that’s pretty remarkable.”With the Big3, there’s no summer vacation for Ice Cube.“It’s nothing that we need to do better or bigger,” he said. “We’ve got the biggest stars in the world showing up at our games.”That includes West, the Grammy-winning rapper who is living inside an Atlanta stadium while working on his new album. West took a break from recording his 10th studio album “Donda” and sat courtside with Ice Cube in Las Vegas.“It’s always amazing to be with an artist like Kanye who is really just going off his inspiration and not anybody’s mission but his own,” Ice Cube said. “When you see a great painter and he’s painting a great piece of work, you want him to not be hampered with anybody’s influence. You want to see what he’s got. That’s how I look at Kanye. He’s a man that’s like an artist and you should just kick back and see what he wants to show you. Everybody shouldn’t be so judgmental. Accept it or not.”Ice Cube just wrapped a role in a “War of the Worlds” remake and later this year will start filming on a comedy titled “Oh Hell No” with Jack Black. His supergroup Mt. Westmore — that includes Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Too Short — is scheduled to release an album later this year.Ice Cube also told AP a new “Friday” movie appears dead.“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think Warner Bros. is super-stubborn. They don’t care what the people say or think. They’re going to do what they’ve been doing the last 20 years, just be untruthful about doing this movie. They couldn’t care less.”Just one more question for Ice Cube: Was he the mystery buyer of the unreleased Wu-Tang Clan album once owned by “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli?“Nah, I ain’t that guy,” Ice Cube said, laughing. “Even though I’m dying to hear it, I didn’t buy it.”But he wouldn’t mind selling you on the Big3.

Indycar rookie Johnson aims for Indianapolis 500 run in 2022

Indycar rookie Johnson aims for Indianapolis 500 run in 2022

IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson is hopeful of testing in August at Homestead-Miami Speedway as part of a path toward running in the Indianapolis 500 in 2022By DAN GELSTON AP Sports WriterJuly 27, 2021, 10:32 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleIndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson is hopeful of testing in August on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway as part of a path toward running in next year’s Indianapolis 500.The seven-time NASCAR champion jumped this season to IndyCar and has competed in seven races for team owner Chip Ganassi. He’s set to race again next weekend at Nashville. Johnson hasn’t finished better than 19th this season.The 45-year-old Johnson only wanted to drive road and street courses this year but has the desire to drive at Indy next season. Johnson would have to complete the Rookie Orientation Program later this year required to race on the Indy oval.Johnson kept an eye on fellow IndyCar rookie Romain Grosjean’s oval test Tuesday at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis. The former Formula One driver committed only to the road and street course races, just like Johnson.Johnson texted Grosjean on Tuesday and asked for tips on handling the oval course.“I’m trying to find my comfort with the ovals,” Johnson said. “I think he’s in a similar place. We’ve both been chatting over the course of the year about ovals. Really, about the experience altogether. I get more and more comfortable with ovals. Hopefully, the test, when it happens in late August, will go well and I’ll continue to work closer toward the Indy 500 or ovals in general.”Johnson’s seven NASCAR championships are tied with Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson said there should be carryover from his NASCAR career in Indianapolis to when he attempts the open wheel run at the Brickyard.“Of all the tracks we run on,” Johnson said, “there should be some crossover on the oval. I found there was zero crossover on the road courses, so that was interesting.”Johnson will miss only the Aug. 21 race at the track outside St. Louis the rest of the IndyCar season. That track is a mile oval. Johnson, who worked the Indy 500 this year as an analyst for NBC, shares the No 48 this season with Tony Kanaan. Kanaan will drive the ovals again in 2022.Used to the more grueling NASCAR schedule, Johnson is slated for 12 road and street course races and he skipped the four oval races.“I’ve really wanted to slow down this year and try something new,” Johnson said. “Both of those things are definitely happening.”———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Jordan's first year in NASCAR a missed layup with Wallace

Jordan's first year in NASCAR a missed layup with Wallace

LOUDON, N.H. — The 23XI Racing team posted a slideshow of the Bubba Wallace firesuit collection and asked fans to comment on their favorite. The designs were from business plucked straight out of Super Bowl ad space: Wallace was dressed by top companies in fast food, fantasy sports and auto insurance.For a driver who spent most of his NASCAR career scraping together sponsorship deals for underfunded teams, Wallace is flush with Fortune 500 cash. Oh, and boasting Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin as team owners sure helps the cause.But deep-pocketed sponsors and a race team seemingly on firm financial footing has done little to help Wallace find success on the track. He has one top-10 finish this season — he had five last season driving for Richard Petty Motorsports — led three laps since late April and needs a win over the next four races to earn a playoff berth.The wins better come in bunches.Jordan said at NASCAR’s kickoff at Daytona that Wallace should “probably win at least a couple races.”Cool. When?“It’s about taking the next step at this point,” Hamlin said in New Hampshire. “I think my question to the team is, ‘What’s next? How do we now move that up?’ When you look at data and everything, the car has a ton of potential. How can we optimize Bubba, the entire team’s performance, pit crew and everything, to get better? Because making the step to get in the top 10 consistently, gaining those three to four spots we need to be in the top 10 consistently, that’s a big step.”Hamlin has modest expectations of getting Wallace those next three to four spots by the end of the season. Wallace’s average finish is 20th. The good news, Jordan showed up in June at Pocono Raceway — with pal Ahmad Rashad — for Wallace’s best result of the season when he placed 14th and fifth in the doubleheader on the tri-oval track.Wallace had a weekend straight out of a normal sports fan’s fantasy camp when he said he dined with Jordan two nights at Pocono and they watched the NBA playoffs. The dinner conversation, though, didn’t include a report card on Wallace’s first season with 23XI.“I haven’t talked to him about it,” Wallace said. “That’s more of a him and Denny conversation. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, try to produce the best results. Sunday at Pocono was good, finished top five. I’ll let them have those conversations between themselves.”Wallace said he would take a “mental reset” during NASCAR’s two-week Olympics break — the schedule resumes Aug. 8 at Watkins Glen — before trying to close NASCAR’s version of the regular season on a playoff push.“We’ve had the speed for a little bit, but there are certain things that have taken us out or put us behind a little bit,” Wallace said. “It’s just a matter of perseverance and coming back and just trying to get the best results.”Wallace’s season has largely focused on racing a year after his activism forced NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. As Wallace’s profile expanded, he raised funds that were tied to him and were able to move with him. Wallace, the only Black full-time driver at NASCAR’s top level, drew a significant amount of personal services agreements with companies such as DoorDash and McDonald’s. Those deals were bundled together and moved with Wallace to 23XI.While Wallace will always have critics, he’s still a fan favorite at the track, and his newfound mainstream celebrity recently landed him (along with Hamlin and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee) in a Post Malone video. Wallace, driver Corey LaJoie and New England Patriots return specialist Gunner Olszewski, the honorary pace car driver, tossed around the football with fans during a rain delay in Sunday’s race.Wallace did admit that no one at 23XI asked for his input on a driver should it land a second charter and expand to a two-driver organization next season. Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion, has been the race team’s top target. Busch’s deal was up and Chip Ganassi, his current car owner, sold his NASCAR team to Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks. Marks will field one car next season for Daniel Suarez and one for a driver to be named later. Ross Chastain, Busch’s teammate at Ganassi, is a candidate for that second seat.Busch said he’s “getting close” to a deal that will likely include long-time sponsor Monster Energy.“Things changed with the announcement of Ganassi selling the team, and my relationship with Monster is important,” Busch said. “I’m trying to balance all that out to figure out what their needs are. I’m a racer and want to drive this Next Gen car and in the right scenario and the right spot.”Wallace can take small consolation in the fact that Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 champion, is also winless through 22 races and the struggle to reach victory lane is real for even the best drivers. He could also look at surprise winners such as Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola as proof that all it takes is one checkered flag to turn around a season.Jordan is watching.———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Under darkness, Almirola pulls off shocker at New Hampshire

Under darkness, Almirola pulls off shocker at New Hampshire

With darkness closing in, Aric Almirola sprung to life late Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and pulled off a surprise for Stewart-Haas Racing’s first victory of the yearBy DAN GELSTON AP Sports WriterJuly 19, 2021, 2:02 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLOUDON, N.H. — Aric Almirola carried the weight of a winless season while chasing a playoff berth that seemed implausible for a driver buried deep in the standings on a Stewart-Haas Racing program that had yet to take a checkered flag.His confidence sagged. The pressure tightened on the No. 10 team.With darkness falling at New Hampshire, Almirola saw his season suddenly come into focus. Almirola sprung to life late Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and pulled off the surprise victory, a vital boost for SHR, Ford and another shakeup of the NASCAR playoff picture.“Coming into this race, we never gave anybody a reason to pick us,” Almirola said. “It feels good to be the underdog and come out of nowhere and have the race car we did.”Almirola snapped a 98-race winless streak and added New Hampshire to a rain-shortened win at Daytona in 2014 and Talladega in 2018 for his third victory in 374 races.And he’s in the playoffs.Almirola was the latest surprise winner and played havoc with the playoff picture with only four races left before the 16-driver field is set. Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick are among the drivers who could use a win and clinch a berth.The race was delayed nearly two hours by rain and NASCAR called it early due to darkness, leaving it eight laps shy of its scheduled conclusion.New Hampshire was scheduled for 301 laps and 318.46 miles. Almirola took the checkered in 293 laps. He broke up the Team Penske party — Brad Keselowksi and Ryan Blaney had a fun back-and-forth for the lead at one point — and Christopher Bell could not catch him.Bell won the Xfinty Series race Saturday and was second. Keselowski, Joey Logano and Blaney made it a 3-4-5 finish for Team Penske.“I felt like I probably had a little bit better pace than him, able to get to him,” Bell said. “Lapped cars were giving him a bad time. If I was able to get to him, it was going to be a heck of a race.Almirola rested his head on the car in almost stunned disbelief that he clinched his playoff spot.“There is no doubt we have struggled,” Almirola said. “But guess what? We’re going playoff racing.”Almirola, who entered 27th in the points standings, was the first driver out of the SHR pack that includes Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe to take the checkered flag. Almirola had only two top 10s this season. Harvick was sixth and led a race-high 66 laps.Ford drivers took five of the top six spots.Almirola said there was “enough light” to keep racing to the scheduled finish.NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller defended the decision to shorten the race.“We just felt like it was getting too dark and needed to call it. It’s just as simple as that,” he said. “Completely based on raceability. “NASCAR started the race under wet conditions and that decision turned into a disaster when Kyle Busch, the polesitter, spun on the slick track and wrecked only six laps into the race. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin also spun and the red flag was waved to stop the race. Truex and Hamlin returned to race. Busch’s race in the No. 18 Toyota was over and he bit his tongue on NASCAR’s call to start the race.“It never should have gone green to begin with, but then it kept getting worse and worse lap over lap,” Busch said. “We’ve been talking about it for two laps that it was raining. There’s no sense in saying what I want to say, it doesn’t do you any good.”Hamlin said, “this is just a bad look.”NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said on NBC Sports races have started in the mist but the track “got slick in a hurry.”RAIN-DELAY THEATERNew England Patriots return specialist Gunner Olszewski, the honorary pace car driver, and drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie tossed the football around with fans during the delay.BUSCH’S BUMPBusch pulled down the window net in his Toyota and appeared to bump the pace car in frustration on his way to pit road. Miller said NASCAR would address Busch’s actions this week.UP NEXTSummer vacation! With NBC busy with Olympics coverage, NASCAR takes a rare two-week break and does not return until Aug. 8 at Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen was bumped from the schedule last season because of the pandemic. Elliott won the last race on the road course in 2019.———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

DiBenedetto could be out of Cup options after losing ride

DiBenedetto could be out of Cup options after losing ride

LOUDON, N.H. — Always a popular driver, Matt DiBenedetto won a fan vote this season that earned him the final spot in NASCAR’s All-Star race. As for the rest of his racing career? Well, wins haven’t come at all.DiBenedetto became a fan favorite over his seven-year career as the underdog of underfunded teams — he qualified for his first Daytona 500 in 2016 in an open car — who just needed top-tier equipment to prove that he could compete with the stars of the sport and even win a race or two. When he got that shot last year with Wood Brothers Racing, steady success instead never came, and DiBenedetto is now without a ride for next season.DiBenedetto has no idea what’s next. He could not hide the crushing hurt in a nine-minute video he posted on social media where he vented his frustration at losing yet another ride.“I’m here to win in the Cup Series,” he said. “I am going to.”Time could be running short.DiBenedetto had known since October he was losing his ride in the No. 21 Ford at the end of the season, but perhaps false hope of a reprieve grew when Brad Keselowski decided to leave Team Penske for Roush Fenway Racing. Austin Cindric was slotted for the ride at Wood Brothers, which essentially operates as a fourth Penske car, but got the nod instead to replace Keselowski. DiBenedetto’s seat will now go to Xfinity Series driver Harrison Burton.Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood said he wanted a rookie to team with Cindric as NASCAR ushers in a new car in 2022.“Those two guys could work together and develop themselves into great race car drivers,” Wood said. “Being rookies, they’re both on the same level and this new car is such a white sheet of paper that even if you’re a veteran, if you’re a 20-year veteran, you’re really not going to have a lot on a rookie.”DiBenedetto had held out hope that Keselowski’s departure gave him a chance to keep his ride, but in the end the statistics didn’t support his cause. Although he did qualify for the playoffs last year for the first time, he’s winless and has just 27 top-10 finishes in 233 career starts.At the track where the winner gets a lobster, DiBenedetto has an outside chance to claw his way into the playoff picture beginning Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.“In our eyes, we’re not done,” Wood said. “There are five races left before the playoffs. We’re gonna try to win a race and get in the playoffs.”DiBenedetto will hit the free-agent market without a sponsor, and minus the funding necessary to entice a team owner to take him, he could be sitting out the Cup Series in 2022. DiBenedetto said this week he didn’t want to drop down to the second-tier Xfinity Series or drive in the Truck Series.The No. 21 team made a crew chief change in June with Jonathan Hassler taking over for Greg Erwin, which resulted in modest improvement. DiBenedetto finished 10th and ninth in his last two races.“Our team is clicking,” DiBenedetto said. “Finally. But guess what? It’s too late. I know it’s going to work out like it’s supposed to, but I’m just expressing my frustration with the way it is.”So where he could go?There are few options with most seats for 2022 already secured. 23XI Racing has discussed adding a second car and 2004 champion Kurt Busch, last week’s winner at Atlanta, could be in the mix for that spot. Richard Petty Motorsports has yet to pick up the option on Erik Jones’ contract. GMS Racing is making the move from the Truck Series to Cup in 2022, and Kaulig Racing might have a spot open, leaving a door cracked for DiBenedetto.KEZ ON THE MOVEKeselowski, the defending New Hampshire race winner, is trying to win one more lobster for team owner Roger Penske. Keselowski and Penske officially confirmed this week they were splitting up at the end of the season. Cindric was named driver of the flagship No. 2 for 2022. Keselowski left because he wanted an ownership stake in his race team. Roush Fenway Racing announced it had scheduled “a major announcement next week regarding the team’s plans for the future,” at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Keselowski should be named driver and part owner on Tuesday.Keselowski is set to become the latest active or recently retired driver with an ownership stake, joining Denny Hamlin and Justin Marks, among others.“I think these drivers don’t want to drive forever,” Penske said. “They want to have equity. They have knowledge and I think the team owners and other people do, so I think it’s a changing of the guard maybe in the industry.”PITBULL’S ACTIVISMPitbull, co-owner of Trackhouse Racing, will place decals of the Cuban flag and the words “Support Freedom” in both English and Spanish on the No. 99 Chevrolet driven by Daniel Suárez. Pitbull, the Cuban-American entertainer, asked people to “stand up, step up” their support in the wake of protests that erupted last weekend in Cuba. Many expressed anger over long lines and shortages of food and medicines, as well as repeated electricity outages. Some demanded a faster pace of vaccination against COVID-19.ODDS AND ENDSDenny Hamlin and Kyle Larson are 5-1 favorites to win Sunday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Kyle Busch, at 7-1, starts on the pole. … New Hampshire, which used to have two NASCAR weekends, is running its 50th Cup race. … Joe Gibbs Racing has finished first or second in 14 of the last 15 races———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

WWE leaves virtual reality behind in 1st tour since 2020

WWE leaves virtual reality behind in 1st tour since 2020

PHILADELPHIA — Triple H walked with his arms crossed like an X — his signature Degeneration X symbol — with his 7-foot tag-team partner Joel Embiid to ring a ceremonial bell last month before a Philadelphia 76ers playoff game.His theme music blared through the arena and nearly 19,000 fans hanging from the rafters roared when the wrestler hoisted his bad guy weapon-of-choice sledgehammer and struck the bell.Sure, the setting wasn’t WrestleMania — though Triple H lost a match in the same building when the event was held there in 1999 — but for the superstar-turned-executive, the frenzied atmosphere was a reminder of what WWE lost during the 16 months it ran without live events and raucous crowds.“It was a fun opportunity to get back into an arena packed full of fans and have them go nuts,” said Triple H, known these days as WWE executive Paul Levesque. “That adrenaline rush, there’s nothing like it.”WWE hasn’t been the same without its “Yes!” chants or “This is Awe-some!” singsongs once the pandemic relegated the company to running empty arena matches every week with a piped-in soundtrack and virtual fans.No more.Much like the intro to the DX theme, WWE has one question for its fans: Are you ready?With most American sports leagues settled in to their old routines, WWE is finally set to ditch its stopgap home in Florida and resume touring starting Friday night with “Smackdown” from Houston, a pay-per-view Sunday in Texas and a return Monday to Dallas for the flagship “Raw” TV show on USA. WWE is set to spruce up sets, bring back old stars and hit the reset button on TV programming humbled with record-low ratings and a strong need for new stars.WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns stared down each opponent in the ring — from Sunday’s main event foe Edge to WrestleMania victim Daniel Bryan — and demanded they “ acknowledge me ” as best in the game.It might have been nice to hear what the fans had to say — or jeer — to the ultimatum.“I do think if we were doing this in front of the live crowd, it would have been a situation that would have made me an even better performer,” Reigns said. “As a live performer, that simultaneous response keeps you sharp. We had to adjust and adapt to the times that were in front of us.”With Hulk Hogan in the house, WWE held only WrestleMania this past April 10th and 11th at Raymond James Stadium with fans. WWE last ran a weeknight televised event with a paid crowd on March 9, 2020, in Washington. WWE then moved to its in-house performance center in Florida on March 13, before setting up what it dubbed The ThunderDome — where fans registered for spots on LED digital videoboards — for stretches in Florida at the Amway Center, Tropicana Field and the Yuengling Center.WWE tinkered with its formula during the pandemic and taped cinematic matches, used more augmented reality and dabbled with an “underground” concept that never reached its potential. With WWE pushing the reaction buttons, it guaranteed fans wouldn’t veer from the hopeful creative direction and boo fan-favorites for sport like they have in the past with Reigns and current Hollywood heavyweight John Cena.“People like Roman have been able to emotionally bring a performance that, maybe with people cheering over him, or booing over him or going into different directions over him,” have benefited, Levesque said. “But that’s the beauty of what we do, to go be entertained, however you want to be entertained. As a performer, sometimes that’s difficult. But if you’re not entertaining, sometimes they’ll entertain themselves.”WWE’s fan shutout didn’t completely lay the smack down on the bottom line, with the company reporting $974.2 million in revenue in 2020.Even without ticket revenue, venue merchandise and the loss of a lucrative Saudi Arabia show, WWE’s billion dollar TV deals with Fox and USA Network and a move of its standalone streaming network to Peacock — home of Sunday’s Money in the Bank event — will keep the company profitable for years.WWE’s July 5 “RAW” on USA Network hit 1.472 million viewers, the lowest in the 28-plus year history of the show. Off the holiday weekend, “Raw” rebounded to 1.609 million this week. Last Friday’s “Smackdown” had 1.986 million viewers on Fox. WWE never missed a TV event during the pandemic.Levesque, WWE EVP of global talent strategy and development, said the company would “take a hard look” at how it can attract more fans to the product each week. WWE can only hope the combination of live crowds and the return of box office attractions such as Becky Lynch, Goldberg, and Cena can ignite interest and grow ratings during the build to the marquee Aug. 21 SummerSlam at the home of the Las Vegas Raiders.“It never is one thing,” Levesque said. “We see this as a moment in time to shift everything. I think you’ll see it in just the layout of everything, the set designs, the way it’s presented. There’s a greater emphasis on utilizing the spaces that we have and the TV aspect of it while still engaging the fans. A lot of that comes from the time we had to experiment inside the ThunderDome.”The first start is putting fans — holding their homemade signs and wearing their catchphrase T-shirts — back in the seats.“When we have that live crowd, sometimes they almost become the cameras for a lot of the performers,” Reigns said. “But when you don’t have that real-time, flesh interaction, the red light becomes the focal point for the performer.”Cena and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted their go get ’em shoutouts and WWE CEO Vince McMahon welcomed back fans with a short video featuring some of WWE’s memorable moments.Reigns is ready to add some more of his own to the highlight reel.“Our production, our display of the show is so much greater with a live crowd,” Reigns said. “Being able to visit different markets, different towns and cities and incorporate a group of fans that haven’t seen us in a while, there’s nothing that’s ever going to be able to replace that.”———More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

In the clutch: Kyle Busch ends Hendrick win streak at Pocono

In the clutch: Kyle Busch ends Hendrick win streak at Pocono

Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Pocono RacewayBy DAN GELSTON AP Sports WriterJune 27, 2021, 10:35 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch came through in the clutch. Even when he raced without one.Busch busted Hendrick Motorsports’ winning streak and denied the organization a shot at NASCAR history when he raced to his second vicrory of the season Sunday at Pocono Raceway.He needs to give credit to his tag-team partner. Busch, runner-up in Saturday’s Pocono race, led a few laps early until a leak in No. 18 Toyota’s transmission left the car stuck in fourth gear. Busch had a Joe Gibbs Racing crew member jump into his car and work on the shift stick.“I’m going to need a push truck to get to Victory Lane because I have no clutch,” Busch said on the radio.The 2 1/2-mile tri-oval wreaked havoc on fuel and William Byron and Denny Hamlin all saw their shot at the checkered flag disappear over the final five laps when they ran out of gas.“Sometimes these races aren’t always won the fastest car,” Busch said.Hamlin faded to 14th.“Fuel mileage got us the last two weeks,” Hamlin said. “We can’t see the checkered right now.”Kyle Larson, whose blown tire on the last lap cost him a win Saturday, was second for Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick had won six straight Cup races, including Alex Bowman’s victory Saturday in the first race of Pocono’s doubleheader.Hendrick was trying to become the first team since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972 to win seven straight races.Bowman started the streak in May at Dover and Chase Elliott followed the next week at Texas. Larson then ripped off three straight points victories at Charlotte, Sonoma and last week at Nashville — and squeezed in the $1 million All-Star race for four wins, total — all while Hendrick Motorsports became the winningest organization in NASCAR history.Brad Keselowski was third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Bubba Wallace was fifth in his best finish of the season for Michael Jordan’s 23IX team.URBAN YOUTHLarson met with 40 students at the Urban Youth Racing School and he announced plans to race in the school’s go-kart race in August in Philadelphia.The Philly-based program that creates opportunities in racing for minorities developed a deeper relationship with Larson after he was suspended last season for using a slur during an iRacing event. Larson often calls or Zooms with the students and bought the school racing simulators.“Just having that relationship where they can pick up the phone and call me if they have questions about iRacing or something is pretty neat,” Larson said. “It’s a closer friendship, relationship with them. I think all of them look up to me and I think that’s great to be there for them whenever they need me.”NASCAR made a $70,000 donation on Sunday to the school.UYRS founder Anthony Martin said Larson and other NASCAR drivers will compete Aug. 7 in a go-kart grand prix near the school’s location in Philly.“A lot of our students have never been to a race before, so to actually come see it up close, be a part of it, smell the gas, hear the sounds are very important,” Martin said. “Actually being here is a lot different than seeing it on television.”UP NEXTNASCAR heads to Road America in rural Wisconsin, one of the new road course events on the 2021 schedule.———More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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