LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kevin Harvick hit pause on that victory swirl of scorched rubber and billows of smoke at Pocono Raceway. Sure, Harvick needed to save the engine for a repeat run in the same Ford and a shot at a weekend sweep in a Cup Series twin bill. He stood on his car alone again in victory lane in front of another race with barren grandstands and the only noise at the track just a few cheers from his Stewart-Haas Racing crew.
It’s not much of a blowout if there’s no one at the party.
“I’m not doing anymore celebrations with nobody out there to celebrate with,” Harvick said. “Until the fans come back, I’m not doing a burnout, I’m not standing on the car, I’m not doing any of that stuff. It doesn’t feel right not having my team in victory lane.”
Harvick snapped an 0-for-38 drought at Pocono, taking the checkered flag Saturday at one of two tracks where victory had eluded him.
Harvick won the first of two NASCAR Cup races in front of no fans this weekend at Pocono and will start 20th on Sunday with the field set by inverting the lead-lap finishers.
The 44-year-old California driver has won at every active track except Kentucky Speedway (nine tries) and the 2014 series champion has three wins overall for SHR this season. He has three career wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, though he’s lost two races on the roval configuration.
Harvick held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin, whose efforts were hampered by a late vibration, for his 52nd career Cup victory. He had 12 top-five finishes in his other 38 starts at Pocono.
“That’s great to finally check Pocono off the list,” Harvick said.
Aric Almirola was third, followed by Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch.
Ryan Preece finished 20th and will start on the pole Sunday. Teams brought cars straight to the garage instead of lining them up on pit road.
The race was scheduled as the second Saturday, but rain washed out the Truck Series race. That sets up a small slice of history Sunday: Truck, second-tier Xfinity and Cup will all run Sunday. It’s the first time three NASCAR National Series races will race on the same day at the same track.
NASCAR wanted the trip to Pocono to settle one of the most tumultuous weeks in its history after a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s stall last week at Talladega led to a federal investigation. The incident was not ruled a hate crime. NASCAR President Steve Phelps stated “the noose was real,” though it remains unknown who tied it. Wallace, who sparked NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag, has become NASCAR’s advocate for social change and acknowledged his time in the national spotlight left him “wore the hell out.” He finished 22nd in the No. 43 Chevrolet.
Politics were in play, though at Pocono when Corey LaJoie, who finished 23rd, ran with a Trump 2020 logo on the rear quarter panel of his Ford.
The weekend should have been one of the wildest ones in Pocono history. Track officials were optimistic the infield would be jam packed with race fans who wanted to experience four NASCAR races in two days.
“The infield would have been a sight to be seen, one that probably hasn’t been seen on the NASCAR circuit in decades,” Pocono CEO Nick Igdalsky said. “We just couldn’t see it this year. Hopefully, next year we get the opportunity to really show what we can put out here.”
Brad Keselowski, who raced to his lone Pocono win in 2011, tweeted a love letter of sorts tied to his memories of the track that date to his childhood when he tagged along to watch his father, Bob, compete in ARCA races.
“Perhaps that brings out the saddest emotion, not having fans this year at Pocono for our races.,” Keselowski tweeted. “The energy and enthusiasm here from the infield crowd has a realness to it unlike other tracks. In Pocono, the community makes NASCAR feel truly loved, we miss you race fans.”
There was a new look all around the 2½-mile tri-oval in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The track cloaked its leaderboard in advertisements because the pandemic wreaked havoc with plans to upgrade to a modern LED scoring tower. Pocono also had 1,250 fans virtually sign the start/finish line. Staff members hand wrote each name on the start/finish line ahead of race weekend. The 1,250 number matched the scheduled number of miles to be run this weekend. Pocono even sold on its website a race weekend T-shirt with “Quarantined” stamped over the logo.
Talladega Superspeedway was allowed up to 5,000 fans for its race weekend and only 1,000 fans mostly military members and their guests, were allowed two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Pocono sits in Monroe County which entered Pennsylvania’s green designation. The green phase limits public gatherings to 250 people. But Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance to professional sports mandates no spectators, even in green.
SHR had its own challenges when two of its employees who work from the team’s shop in North Carolina tested positive for COVID-19.
Pocono usually runs a 400-mile race but Saturday’s was 325 miles and Sunday goes off at 350 miles. That’s a lot of miles raced without a fan in sight.
“You get out to silence,” Harvick said. “We miss the fans, I miss my team being able to be right in there with us because those are the guys and gals that are making it happen. It’s tough to give an elbow bump or wave at them.”
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Norwich City are proud to announce a three-way alliance that focuses on creating life-changing opportunities for young people from underrepresented backgrounds in the UK.
The alliance will see Bidstack supporting BADU Sports students with the opportunity to attend, train and learn from various teams on the corporate and performance side of Norwich City Football Club. Activities will include attending Norwich City’s Finnish football camp, coaching and sports performance sessions at The Nest, and seminars in marketing, business management and careers in football.
To mark the start of this new partnership, BADU’s logo will be featured on the Canaries’ home and third kits, whilst Bidstack’s logo will feature on the team’s away kit.
BADU Sports’ work is focused on building a mentoring and support network through education and community development programmes – using sports as their main vehicle for engagement. The sports education community group have previously partnered with the FA, London Sport, Loughborough University, Sky, Nike and recently the Mayor of London’s Office to deliver workshops aimed at equipping children and young adults with knowledge and skills, to help further their educational journey and make a positive impact on their working careers later down the line.
Since their pivot from digital-out-of-home advertising to in-game advertising, Bidstack has grown its business from a crowdfunded start-up to a more than 60 people strong PLC business. Bidstack has previously worked with BADU to help increase awareness of the outreach work it does in the local community through in-game advertising activation in the popular game, Football Manager. It is now taking this partnership further with kit sponsorship and connecting the organisation with Norwich City to further develop and grow their educational programmes.
Norwich City has a history of giving back to the community. In 2017, the Canaries worked with the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation to rejuvenate their former home ground, The Nest, into a world class community sports facility. Twelve months later, phase one of the ground’s remodel was complete and was open to the public. Currently a £1m funding-raising campaign is under way to kick start phase two of the project.
Nana Badu, BADU Sports founder and CEO said, “We are absolutely overjoyed to be working with Bidstack and Norwich City football club. It will mean great things for BADU Sports and the community. We have always strived for the very best access and knowledge to develop and empower and this alliance will help realise this for our young people and their families whom we serve. This sends such a strong message about our joint partnership and commitment to bridging the gap of inequality of access and knowledge. The world has experienced challenging times and I am proud that together we have created a roadmap for change.”
James Draper, Bidstack founder and CEO said, “Seeing the work BADU Sports and the Community Sports Foundation have put into furthering the opportunities and lives of local underrepresented people in East London and Norfolk respectively, and given our relationship with Norwich City Football Club – it feels incredible for our team and supporters of Bidstack to bring two organisations together, with this partnership.
“We work tirelessly to ensure that our companies’ existence benefits those who we come into contact with, and this activation sits well with our values – and enables us to say ‘thank you’ to the two communities and the one club – who transformed our company. Thank you to our friends at Norwich City – and to Nana and his team, I’m hoping this will be a transformational partnership for many young lives.”
Ben Tunnell, Norwich City Football Club’s Head of Commercial Development, said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome back Bidstack to the Club’s partnership portfolio and first-team shirt. It has been to the joy of everyone at Carrow Road seeing the growth of Bidstack since our first partnership in 2016, knowing how important our partnership was for Bidstack in becoming the world’s leading in-game advertising agency.’
“Bidstack gifting the bulk of the Partnership rights to BADU Sports, and presenting Norwich City the opportunity to be a part of their story is remarkable. We cannot wait to get started with Nana Badu and his team and look forward to creating some unforgettable experiences and memories.”’
FC Tulsa’s long-awaited home opener Wednesday against the San Antonio FC was a matchup between two of the United Soccer League’s four undefeated teams.
And both are still undefeated after a 0-0 draw in a game that included almost everything, except a goal, and was followed by fireworks before 2,445 fans who nearly filled ONEOK Field’s socially distanced reduced seating capacity.
FC Tulsa (2-0-3, 9 points) waited nearly five months for its first game this season at ONEOK Field after its initial scheduled home game March 14 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Outstanding, unbelievable,” is how FC Tulsa defender Bradley Bourgeois described the atmosphere.
Added FC Tulsa goalkeeper Sean Lewis, “I thought it was great. The fan base was very enthusiastic. I know we have to keep it limited because of the protocols, but even so it was amazing to be out there in front of them. It was a great experience.”
In its sixth USL season, Tulsa set a team record by allowing no more than one goal in its fifth consecutive game. Lewis has allowed only three goals in five matches and none in the past two.
“We’re really jelling defensively,” Lewis said. “We cover each other well, we’re well organized and you’ve seen the results as far as letting in fewer goals and keeping clean sheets so far.”
Lewis made a dazzling save in the eighth minute as he robbed Luis Solignac from close range. And Lewis made a diving save to deny Gonzalo Di Renza in the 64th minute.
“Sean was strong, consistent, brave,” FC Tulsa coach Michael Nsien said. “They were able to put 15 or 16 crosses in and they started to get a lot of set pieces, and he organized well and kept his space very well and obviously kept a clean sheet, so that’s what goalkeeping is all about.”
Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair also was impressive for San Antonio (4-0-2, 14 points), as he came up with clutch saves on shots by Dario Suarez in the 41st and 62nd minutes.
Tulsa is undefeated through five games for the first time in team history and is in second place behind San Antonio in Group D. The top two teams qualify for the playoffs.
“There are some positive things from the match,” Nsien said. “San Antonio is a good team and came here with a lot of momentum. They have good players and are well organized, so for us to get a clean sheet, that’s a positive.
“When it got to about the 60th or 65th minute the game started to open up,” he added. “They were getting set pieces and we were breaking the other way. It’s a little unfortunate that we weren’t able to capitalize on some of those chances in the space we were able to find. It’s good we were able to create, but at home we expect we should be able to put the ball away.”
San Antonio played without its leading scorer, Cristian Parano, who was unavailable. Parano is considered as one of the USL’s top midfielders.
Tulsa plays seven of its remaining 11 games at home, with its next match scheduled at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 against Austin Bold FC at ONEOK Field.
FC TULSA 0, SAN ANTONIO FC 0
Shots: San Antonio 13, Tulsa 12. Saves: San Antonio, St. Clair 3; Tulsa, Lewis 3. A: 2,445.
Ebony Rainford-Brent and Will Greenwood joined Caroline Barker on Sky Sports to take a detailed look at how women’s sport can recover from the coronavirus pandemic
Last Updated: 12/08/20 10:37pm
“Women’s sport has been left on the bench. We have to find a way to get women’s sport back up and running so they can continue to inspire the next generation, to make sure we don’t lose a cohort due to this disastrous cancelled summer.”
The coronavirus pandemic has affected sport across the world, and women’s sport is arguably the most at risk.
Major cycling, football and rugby events have been cancelled or postponed because of the crisis.
In a recent report, MPs warned that the cancellation of these events means women are less likely to be inspired to play sport, while the government has been urged not to sacrifice the women’s game in favour of the men’s.
The future looks uncertain, but is there a way back? Will Greenwood and Ebony Rainford-Brent joined Caroline Barker on Sky Sports for a special programme to discuss the impact of COVID-19.
‘Women’s sport has been left on the bench’
“We’ll come back stronger,” were the words of the FA’s Kelly Simmons within the announcement that the WSL’s final standings would be reached by a basic points-per-game basis.
The final positions in the Tyrrells Premier 15s were calculated on a ‘best playing record formula’ after its season was terminated in March.
At the end of May, the Vitality Netball Superleague had the results of their 2020 matches deemed null and void, and now some clubs are having to reach out to fans in order to try and raise the funds needed to keep them afloat.
“Anyone with a fingernail of common sense can see the role women’s sport plays in our society,” Will Greenwood told The Women’s Sport Debate. “I think what’s happened off the back of COVID-19 is while men have been given VIP access to the stadiums and the funds to get back on the field, women’s sport has been left on the bench and disproportionately so.
“We have to find a way to get women’s sport back up and running so that they can continue to inspire the next generation, to make sure we don’t lose a cohort due to this disastrous cancelled summer.”
‘Women’s sport has commercial power’
Funding for women’s sport also continues to be an issue. Two months after the Premier 15s season was terminated, Tyrrells – the competition’s significant investors – announced their decision to “redirect” their marketing spend “in line with overarching business objectives”.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) has criticised the lack of funding for women’s elite sports, and Ebony Rainford-Brent insists women’s sport must make the most of its commercial potential.
“I don’t think we focus on the data enough and what I mean by that is the uplift data, the data that shows how big the market is, how big the potential is to grow the game,” she said.
“Cricket for example over the last year has seen some amazing statistics that to me blow my mind and suggest ‘can we invest more?’
“So an example would be the ICC – 1.1bn video views on the ICC digital channel. Now if you’re a sponsor and you heard that data would you not think straight away ‘there is something to get involved in, there is something moving.’ You think about the 2017 World Cup here we had here in England which had a packed audience as well, on Sky that was the most viewed cricket game that summer.
“I came back from Australia earlier in the year where there was a crowd of 86,000 people watching, one of the most watched female sporting events of all time.
“To make women’s sport commercially viable and to attract sponsors, I don’t think we get the data out there enough. These numbers are powerful. You go to any sponsor and tell them this is what the sport is offering, they would snap your hands off.
“I think under crisis now we need to become super focused about making women’s sport commercially viable on its own. I think we’ve done a brilliant job of bringing it to this place now where the expectation is higher and the visibility is higher, but now more than ever we need to be driving this data to all sponsors so they know that women’s sport may actually offer a better investment.”