February 17, 2007


Stewart seeks Daytona glory


The Associated Press
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart celebrates his win in the Gatorade Duel Qualifying Race at the Daytona International Speedway. He is among the favorites for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

AP Auto Racing Writer

As Tony Stewart sat in front of a TV watching the Indianapolis Colts celebrate their Super Bowl victory, he thought about the burden lifted from quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I sent him a text message right after the game was over,” Stewart recalled. “I said, ‘You got yours, finally. Now it’s time for me to go get my Super Bowl.”’
That’s Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The two-time NASCAR champion is 0-8 in the race that every NASCAR driver wants, and one that has been very tough — or impossible — for some of the sport’s biggest names to win.
It took the late Dale Earnhardt 20 tries, while Darrell Waltrip finally got to Victory Circle in his 17th attempt. Rusty Wallace never won it, and Mark Martin will get is 22nd try Sunday.
Stewart already has 10 victories on Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval, including the non-points Budweiser Shootout last Saturday and his 150-mile qualifying race Thursday.
This week’s victories — and the ease with which he got them — have made Stewart the heavy favorite to win. Three-time 500 winner Jeff Gordon, who won Thursday’s other qualifying race, agreed.
“He looks like he’s just been hooked up,” Gordon said. “The thing is, you need a great car, a little luck and a lot of confidence to win this race. It looks like Tony has all of that right now.”
But Stewart, whose best finish was second in 2004, has been the guy to beat before.
“I’m excited where we are starting the race,” said Stewart, who will start third, on the inside of the second row in the 43-car field. “Having had the best car in the past and not being able to finish it off kind of leads me to think it’s one lap at a time for 200 laps on Sunday.”
And he insists he would give every Daytona win for just one 500 victory.
“I feel like this is the best opportunity that we’ve had so far to win the 500,” Stewart said. “This is definitely the most momentum we’ve had going into it.”
Stewart just missed making NASCAR’s 10-man Chase for the championship last year, but won three of the 10 Chase events. Over the winter, he won a pair of midget races in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the sprint car Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla.
Even crew chief Greg Zipadelli, who has been with Stewart since he came to Cup in 1999, is whispering in his driver’s ear about how this could be the year.
“I’m superstitious about everything, and I kind of feel, the way things are lining up, like maybe we’ll have the opportunity to get it done this year,” Stewart said.
A native of Indiana, Stewart started in open-wheel racing but never won his beloved Indianapolis 500 before moving to stock cars. In August, 2005, he finally got to kiss the strip of bricks at the Indy finish line after winning the Brickyard race.
That was a watershed moment, but the overwhelming satisfaction didn’t last as long as he thought it would.
“I’m very goal-oriented,” Stewart explained. “I said the weight of the world was off my shoulders when I won the Brickyard, and I thought, ‘All right, I can die happy.’ Than I thought, ‘Now I’ve got to win Daytona.’
“And, if I win Daytona, I haven’t won a race yet at Darlington, Talladega, Vegas and California. It’s getting those other four tracks and being the only guy who has won on all the tracks we run on. That would be cool.”
Stewart shut his eyes, rubbed his stubble of beard and leaned back, thinking for a moment.
“But then Indy will come back into play,” he added. “There’s always going to be something. I’ll never be satisfied.
“So don’t think that even if I win Daytona and I go on and win California and Darlington and Vegas and Talladega this year that I’ll be satisfied. I will be, but then I’ll be wanting to win a third championship and catch Jeff at 75 wins and all of that.”
First things first, though.
“I can’t even think about that other stuff if I don’t win Daytona,” he said. “I hope this is the year.”
SPRAGUE WINS: Jack Sprague used a dramatic move on the final lap to give Toyota its first Craftsman Truck win at Daytona International Speedway on Friday.


Tough night for Dragons

Women see 21-game win streak halted

BROCKPORT — With five and a half minutes left to play, this basketball battle between the top two SUNY Athletic Conference teams was up for grabs.
When freshman forward Jessica Laing scored on a lay-up at that juncture, the SUNY Cortland women trailed host Brockport by a narrow 50-49 margin in this bid for a 22nd consecutive victory that would tie a school record and clinch first place in the conference standings.
But Cortland would not score again until senior guard Kerry Costello finished off a career high 19-point performance with a 3-pointer with three seconds left to play.
That cold spell that stretched over five crucial minutes was the difference as Brockport pulled out a 55-52 victory at Tuttle North Gymnasium over the Red Dragons, who came into the contest ranked 24th in the latest national poll.
Brenlyn Campbell had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Golden Eagles avenged an earlier 63-60 loss to the Red Dragons, improving to 13-2 in SUNYAC play and 19-5 overall.
Cortland is 14-1 in the SUNYAC and can still clinch a regular season title with a home court victory over Fredonia this evening at 6 p.m. Brockport hosts Geneseo today to close out the regular season.
If Cortland and Brockport finish in a tie, the regular season champion will be determined through tie-breaking procedures.
The Red Dragons had a 30-24 halftime lead at Brockport, but would shoot just 24 percent from the floor over the closing 20 minutes of play.
Costello had the only Red Dragon on target. She made 6-of-10 shots from the floor including a trio of 3-pointers and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
Laing finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore forward Ali Canale tossed in seven points — though neither shot the ball well. Forward Sara Cavanaugh and guard Maggie Byrne struggled offensively, Cavanaugh with just five points while Byrne was held scoreless.
Forward Cavanaugh did top the Red Dragons with 10 rebounds and guard Byrne dished out a team-high five assists.
Campbell caused Cortland the most trouble on the inside, and blocked three shots. Courtney Hines added 15 points and Ashley Broadhurst nine for the Golden Eagles, who lost starting guard Katie Marcella to a first half ankle injury.
Twice Cortland held seven-point advantages in the first half, with a pair of Costello free throws with two ticks on the clock sending the visitors into the break up by six.
Brockport opened the second half going on a 16-4 run over the opening seven minutes. When Kim Schon swished a jump shot with 13:10 left to play, the Golden Eagles had their biggest lead at 40-34.
Cortland came back and this game was tied four times, the last at 47-47, before Hines made a 3-pointer to put the Golden Eagles ahead for keeps with 5:46 left to play. Laing scored her final two points moments later, but a Jen Buskus basket on the inside put Brockport ahead 52-49 with 5:01 on the clock.
That score stayed stuck at 52-49 until 30 seconds left to play, when Campbell scored for the Golden Eagles after Schon had grabbed a vital offensive rebound. Hines made one of two free throws with eight seconds left to hike the lead to 55-49, Costello then hitting her late 3-pointer for the final margin.



Cortland men fall short at Brockport

BROCKPORT — Despite this basketball loss to the conference leaders, SUNY Cortland men still control their own playoff destiny.
The Red Dragons were beaten 83-63 at Brockport on Friday night, missing out on a chance to clinch the eighth and final playoff spot for the upcoming SUNY Athletic Conference playoffs.
Cortland can play their way into the playoffs — and earn a quarterfinal round rematch with Brockport — by closing out the regular season with a home court victory over Fredonia this evening. The opening tip is at 8 p.m. at Corey Gymnasium.
A Cortland victory tonight, or a Potsdam loss at Oneonta this afternoon, will secure that playoff spot. There is a possibility Cortland, Potsdam and New Paltz could all wind up sharing eighth place — but the Red Dragons have the tie-breaker thanks to sweeping Potsdam during the regular season and pulling out an overtime victory at New Paltz.
Nineteen turnovers cost Cortland (5-10 SUNYAC, 9-15 overall) a chance to upset first place Brockport (13-2, 20-4) at Tuttle North Gymnasium.
The Red Dragons lost despite shooting 50 percent from the floor. The leading Cortland scorers both came off the bench, senior guard Dave Maggiacomo with 15 points including four 3-pointers and freshman center Paul Oliver finishing with 10 points.
The leading Brockport scorer was Sherod Harris with 20 points. He was 4-for-6 from 3-point range and 8-for-9 from the free throw line. The Golden Eagles made 21-of-26 free throws for the game, compared to Cortland going 9-for-16.
Cantrel Parrish added 12 points and Brandon Williams 11 in the victory, Brockport a 45-31 leader by halftime. The Golden Eagles maintained a double digit advantage throughout the second half.
The only Cortland spurt came in the opening half after falling behind 21-9 at the midway mark. The Red Dragons went on a 14-4 run then, nine of those points coming from Maggiacomo, to close to within 25-23 with 5:36 left in the half.
Brockport out-scored Cortland 20-8 the rest of the way to build the halftime lead and was not threatened again.