Around the Nation (July 7): Johnny Gray captures Funny Car title at NHRA Nationals in Norwalk

Associated Press Published:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUTO RACING

Gray wins Funny Car title at NHRA Nationals

NORWALK, Ohio — Johnny Gray won his fourth Funny Car title of the year on Sunday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

Gray and Ron Capps drove their Dodge Chargers to identical times of 4.103 seconds in the championship round. But Gray posted the quicker reaction time to get the victory. Gray’s Charger went 314.02 mph in the final round, compared to 314.09 for Capps in his 400th career start.

Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won.

It was the seventh career victory for Gray, who has won each of his four finals this year. He beat Alexis DeJoria, Chad Head and defending Funny Car world champion Jack Beckman to reach the final round.

AlBalooshi claimed his first victory of the season and second of his career, knocking off top qualifier Doug Kalitta in the final round. He covered the distance in 3.935 seconds at 271.30 mph while Kalitta’s numbers were 4.215 seconds and 268.54 mph.

Edwards, the current points leader in Pro Stock, grabbed his fourth win of the year by knocking off defending world champion Allen Johnson.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith claimed his first win since 2011, a span of 34 races. Smith went 6.594 at 192.44 on his Buell en route to the victory against Scotty Pollacheck.

Dixon snaps skid, wins IndyCar race at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. — Scott Dixon felt like his losing streak stretched as long as IndyCar’s absence from Pocono.

After 24 years, the series returned to the triangle track.

And it was a big welcome back to Victory Lane for Dixon. Dixon enjoyed it so much, he even had two of his teammates tag along on the podium.

Dixon led a monster day for Chip Ganassi Racing, leading a podium sweep for the team with a win Sunday at the IndyCar Series event at Pocono Raceway. He was followed by Ganassi teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti in IndyCar’s first race at Pocono since 1989.

Dixon struggled this season to make a serious run at wins and had led only one lap, at the Indianapolis 500. He led the final 27 at Pocono for his 30th career IndyCar victory. He snapped a 13-race winless streak that dated to the Aug. 12, 2012 race at Mid-Ohio.

GOLF

Blixt wins, Curtis takes 17th at Greenbrier

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Jonas Blixt shot a 3-under 67 on Sunday to win the rain-delayed Greenbrier Classic by two strokes.

The Swede emerged from a five-player chase over the final five holes to pick up the $1.1 million winner’s check. He also gets a spot in the upcoming British Open and next year’s Masters for the victory.

Blixt overcame a four-shot deficit at the start of the final round and finished at 13 under. Third-round leader Johnson Wagner (73), Australians Steven Bowditch (68) and Matt Jones (68), and Jimmy Walker (71) tied for second.

Former Kent State All-American Ben Curtis shot a final round 1-under 69 and wound up tied for 17th at 7-under 273. He pocketed $85,260.

Blixt went ahead with a 9-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and wrapped up his second tour win with two pars.

Play on the Old White TPC course was halted for three hours due to thunderstorms.

McDowell secures win at French Open

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland won the French Open on Sunday, shooting a 4-under 67 in the final round to capture his ninth European Tour title by four strokes.

McDowell had five birdies and a bogey to finish 9-under 275. The Northern Irishman won the World Match-Play Championship in May, but missed the cut in his three following tournaments.

Richard Sterne of South Africa (71) was second.

CYCLING

Froome fends off foes at Tour de France

BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France — The mighty mountains of the Pyrenees offered at least two important insights about Tour de France leader Chris Froome: He can land terrible blows to his rivals with his grinding uphill speed and can take their punches, too. In short, if the Briton in the yellow jersey perhaps isn’t unbeatable, he seems very close to it.

After nine hectic days of racing over 1,513 kilometers (940 miles), the Tour luxuriates in its first rest day on Monday. The pause allows the contenders for victory in Paris on July 21 to lick their wounds and regroup after Froome knocked them dizzy and grabbed the race lead with a triumphant first day of climbing in the Pyrenees on Saturday. But they’ll also be ruing the opportunity they collectively wasted the very next day on Sunday to hurt Froome right back.

On what may well prove to have been one of the toughest and decisive days of this 100th Tour, and certainly one of the most tactical and interesting, Froome’s rivals isolated him from his Sky teammates and forced him to ride alone — one man against many — up four consecutive climbs as jagged as sharks’ teeth. But they could not make Froome crack.

“That was one of the hardest days that I’ve ever had on a bike,” the 2012 Tour runner-up said after defending his yellow jersey.

The rival who harassed Froome most, with successive squirts of acceleration on the last climb, was Nairo Quintana. The lesson the Colombian drew from this drama amid pine forests and peaks with stubborn patches of snow was: “That we can break down his team a little, but that he can defend himself and is very strong.”

BASEBALL

Jeter passes second test at AAA Scranton

MOOSIC, Pa. — New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter singled and tested his surgically repaired ankle on the basepaths in his second rehabilitation game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.

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