Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at US Grand Prix
By JIM VERTUNO
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, October 21
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.
Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix
Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.
The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.
The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His last move to block Hamilton was on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.
Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.
“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”
Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.
“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”
Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.
Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.
Chase Elliott wins for 2nd time in 3 NASCAR playoff races
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
Monday, October 22
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Chase Elliott first had to figure out how to win at NASCAR’s top level. Now that he’s got that handled, the son of 1988 champion Bill Elliott is chasing a title of his own.
Elliott won at Kansas Speedway on Sunday for his second victory in three races, cementing himself as a title threat late in a season in which mighty Hendrick Motorsports has lagged. He needed 98 career starts and maybe a dozen near-misses before he finally closed out his first Cup victory.
The breakthrough victory 11 events ago sparked Elliott’s performance in NASCAR’s playoffs, the second round bookended by a pair of Elliott victories. Elliott opened the round with a win at Dover and closed it with the Kansas victory.
“We’re going to keep the hammer down,” Elliott said. “I feel like we are among those guys that you have to beat, and I think that is all you can ask for.”
Elliott is the only Hendrick driver and single Chevrolet representative in the round of eight. Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time champion, was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and Alex Bowman was knocked out Sunday.
Also eliminated Sunday were Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski, both winners in the first round of the playoffs, and Kyle Larson.
Larson needed to win to make it into the third round and was frantically chasing Elliott in the closing laps but settled for third. He was docked 10 points by NASCAR earlier this week for an infraction at Talladega, his team lost two appeals of the penalty and he was in a must-win situation at Kansas.
“I’m actually glad that nothing stupid took us out of the playoffs this year — we had that battery come out at Dover a couple years ago, blew up an engine here last year,” Larson said. “I would have liked to have made it into the next round, but I’m glad (elimination) wasn’t anything other than just us not performing where we needed to be that kept us out of the next round.”
Advancing into the third round of the playoffs were Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano.
Stewart-Haas Racing has all four of its cars in the round of eight and Ford has five of the slots. Toyota has two entrants in Kyle Busch and defending series champion Truex. Elliott is the only representative from Chevy and Hendrick, which has struggled this year with a new Camaro and a young driver lineup.
NASCAR’s so-called “Big Three” of Harvick, Truex and Kyle Busch are still in the playoffs. Harvick, winner of the second stage Sunday, and Kyle Busch, the runner-up to Elliott, have looked like championship contenders all season. Truex has been hot in spurts but was fifth at Kansas, where he swept both races last season.
“This stuff is hard man. It shows how difficult it is you know to win both races here last year and run second in the spring and then come back trying to be better and struggle all day,” Truex said.
Keselowski briefly flirted with a title run by reeling off three consecutive victories, but he ran out of gas last week when Talladega went into overtime and it crushed his momentum. He was sixth Sunday.
“We needed something to step up, but it just wasn’t there,” Keselowski said. “I am proud of what we did down the stretch of the year. We won three races … but of course the ultimate goal is to win a championship and we won’t have an opportunity to do that this year.”
Elliott has now taken over Keselowski’s slot as a late challenger to the “Big Three.”
“This is a huge time of year. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a long ways to go,” Elliott said.
More from Kansas Speedway:
RULING EXPLAINED: One of Bowyer’s tires appeared to roll to the edge of his pit box during a late stop but he was not penalized for what many thought was a violation. Had Bowyer been penalized, it might have helped Blaney avoid elimination.
NASCAR said after the race Bowyer’s tire was under control until it was brought inside the pit stall, and the rule states tires can cross into the adjacent pit boxes on the inside as long as they do not impede another car or go past the halfway point of the adjacent stall. Had a car been pitting in front of Bowyer, or if the tire had rolled past the pit stall number painted on the wall, it would have been a penalty.
ENGINE ISSUES: William Byron was knocked out of the race with an engine failure 55 laps into the race. A day earlier, Jamie McMurray had an engine failure during practice. Both engines are built by Hendrick Motorsports and neither driver is in the playoffs.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., a former Hendrick driver, opined in the NBC Sports broadcast booth what many wondered: The Hendrick engine department may have used Byron and McMurray’s motors for research and development purposes.
UP NEXT: The opening race of the third round of the playoffs, at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. Kyle Busch is the defending race winner, while Bowyer won at Martinsville earlier this year.
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Catanzaro’s 59-yard FG in OT lifts Bucs over Browns 26-23
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, October 21
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Chandler Catanzaro was confident he would redeem himself.
“I think it’s part of my DNA. I’ve always kind of found of way to bounce back,” the Tampa Bay kicker said Sunday after his 59-yard field goal — the longest ever in overtime — gave the Buccaneers a 26-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns. “I rarely miss two in a row. Even if it’s from 59, I was just looking for a shot. If it was from 66, I would have tried it.”
Catanzaro missed an extra point in the first half, as well as a 40-yard field goal on the final play of regulation. Concerned the Bucs (3-3) might not get the ball back if they punted, coach Dirk Koetter didn’t hesitate to give his kicker a chance to end it with 1:50 remaining in the extra period.
“He hit it from 61 in practice this week, so I knew he had the distance in him,” Koetter said.
“With the 10-minute overtime … we weren’t going to get the ball back,” the coach added. “So go for the win or hope for the tie. And the way that game was going, we were going for the win.”
Tampa Bay, which recovered Jabrill Peppers’ fumble near midfield on a punt return to give itself a chance, ended a three-game skid and handed the Browns (2-4-1) their 24th consecutive road loss — two shy of tying the NFL record.
Cleveland, which has played four overtime games this season — most for a team since Arizona won all four it played in 2011, and tied for second most in NFL history — hasn’t won on the road since winning in overtime at Baltimore on Oct. 11, 2015.
The Detroit Lions set the road futility mark with 26 straight losses from 2007-10.
“We had our chances to win it. We just didn’t finish some things,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said.
“This is our fourth overtime game. We’re not trying to get to overtime and if we do, we want to win the game,” Jackson added. “We’ve got to find a way to finish these games in the W column.”
Jameis Winston and DeSean Jackson scored on 14-yard runs for Tampa Bay (3-3). Rookie Ronald Jones II added his first pro TD on a 2-yard run that put Tampa Bay up 23-9 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Browns, who had 126 yards of offense through three quarters, used Nick Chubb’s 1-yard TD run to cut into their deficit and pulled even on Baker Mayfield’s 16-yard pass to Jarvis Landry with 2:28 remaining in regulation.
A week after completing just 48 percent of his passes and being sacked five times during a 24-point loss to the Chargers that Mayfield called the worst of his career, the No. 1 overall draft pick was 23 of 34 for 215 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions.
The Browns’ defense forced four turnovers, including an interception in overtime, but Mayfield struggled to move the ball with consistency until the fourth quarter. But with Chubb playing a bigger role after Cleveland traded leading rusher Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville on Friday, Cleveland rallied.
“It’s very frustrating any time you lose, especially because you could have done a lot of things better,” Mayfield said. “That seems to be the moral of the season.”
Winston completed 32 of 52 passes for 365 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner also led the Bucs in rushing with 55 yards on 10 attempts.
The Browns fell to 1-2-1 in overtime games this season. The four OT games are one shy of the record five Green Bay played in 1983.
“The thing it comes down to is the little things,” Mayfield said. “If we do things right we can get a few more points.”
The Browns forced four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, but only one of them led to points.
They wasted one scoring opportunity when Mayfield, scrambling on fourth-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 11, fumbled backward on his way to picking up the first down in the final minute of the second quarter.
The Browns came away with no points again when, trailing 23-16, Mayfield was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the Bucs 1.
The defense stepped up, forcing a punt that Peppers returned 32 yards to the Bucs 16. Mayfield threw his TD pass to Landry on the next play.
Cleveland’s decision to trade Hyde for a fifth-round draft choice was driven by a desire to give Chubb more touches and also get Duke Johnson, the team’s best offensive playmaker, more involved. Chubb, who came in averaging 10.8 yards per carry, finished with 80 yards rushing on 18 attempts. He was targeted twice on passes, but did not have a catch.
Tampa Bay stopped a three-game losing streak that cost former defensive coordinator Mike Smith his job last week. The Bucs entered Sunday allowing a league-worst 34.6 points per game, ranked 31st in total defense, and dead last against the pass. They sacked Mayfield five times and allowed a season-low 305 yards in their debut under Smith’s replacement, former linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
Browns: With CB E.J. Gaines sidelined by a concussion, T.J. Carrie started. The defense also was without LB Joe Schobert, who could be out several weeks with a hamstring injury. Cleveland did not report any injuries during the game.
Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy (calf) and DE Vinny Curry (ankle) were inactive, leaving rookie DT Vita Vea and DE Carl Nassib to make their first starts for Tampa Bay. LBs Kwon Alexander was lost to a knee injury late in the second quarter. Backup LB Jack Cichy left in the third quarter and did not return.
Browns: at Pittsburgh next Sunday
Buccaneers: at Cincinnati next Sunday
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Rookie Young scores 35, Hawks rout LeBron-less Cavs 133-111
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, October 21
CLEVELAND (AP) — Trae Young got doused with a bucket of ice water after his third NBA game.
The Cavaliers couldn’t do anything to cool off Atlanta’s rookie guard.
Young scored 35 points with 11 assists — the best line for a first-year player since Steph Curry in 2010 — and Kent Bazemore scored 23 as the Hawks rolled to an easy 133-111 win on Sunday over Cleveland, which lost its home opener and fell to 0-3 as it re-adjusts to life without LeBron James.
The No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, Young shook off a slow start and showed why the Hawks believe he’s a future superstar. Afterward, Young was targeted by teammates after they soaked coach Lloyd Pierce following his first win.
“It was super cold,” Young said with a smile after his shocking bath. “I thought it would just be Coach Pierce because he had his first win, but it was all right. I’ll take it.”
Young was also unaware he matched Curry, who twice scored at least 35 with 10 assists in his first season with Golden State. And just three games into the season, Young has 79 more chances to do it again.
“Now that we know what he’s capable of we’ll be expecting a little bit more,” Bazemore joked.
The Hawks made a team record 22 3-pointers, including 10 while scoring 41 in the fourth quarter, to blow open the game and send Cleveland fans home early with many shaking their heads on the way out.
Jordan Clarkson scored 19 and Kevin Love had 16 with 17 rebounds for the Cavs, who could be in for a very long season post LeBron.
Cleveland’s issues appear to be far deeper than no longer having the game’s best player. The Cavs aren’t playing professional level defense and have given up 116, 131 and 133 points in their first three games.
“We didn’t expect to be 0-3,” said Love, who was asked if he was alarmed by the performance. “On opening night at home, we expect to play better in front of our own fans. I don’t know if alarming is the right word, but it sure seems right, right now. Our effort level just wasn’t there. It’s just going to be a growth year for us. We’ve got to get better.”
While wearing neon green sneakers, Young showed plenty of flash in his game.
He made 6 of 7 shots and scored 18 in the second quarter, helping the Hawks erase a 15-point lead and go up 64-60 at halftime.
“Trae is fearless,” Bazemore said. “Even in the practices earlier in the summer he came in and established himself right away. That’s what you have to respect. A young guy that comes in, he’s not bashful, he’s not shy and who has that kind of caliber talent, he’s going to have ups and downs. I’m proud of him as a teammate.”
It’s a whole new ballgame in Cleveland without James, who carried the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals and a title in 2016 before leaving as a free agent — for the second time — in July for Los Angeles.
The Cavs are starting over, but believe they can still be competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Their pinning most of those hopes on Love, who signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension this summer. But he doesn’t have much help and it could be a while before Sexton is ready to contribute.
Sexton came off the bench and scored four points on 2 of 11 shooting in 28 minutes. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue felt his young guard may have gotten caught up in his matchup with Young.
“He took it personal,” Lue said. “He was flying over screens to get there and that’s not what we wanted to do.”
Hawks: Atlanta had 32 assists on 48 field goals. … Atlanta has 10 players with two years or less NBA experience. The Hawks’ roster currently averages 3.64 years, a number that drops to 2.63 with the exclusion of Vince Carter, a 20-year veteran.
Cavaliers: Sexton was called for a Flagrant 1 foul in the second quarter for stepping under Bazemore, who was attempting a 3-pointer. … Love went 6 of 19 and is 17 of 56 in three games.
Young didn’t take any satisfaction in beating Sexton.
“You look forward to playing anybody in your class,” he said. “Playing against him throughout high school, USA Basketball, things like that. You look forward to playing against guys you grew up with. I was looking to playing against Collin, but at the same time I look forward to playing against everybody.”
Pierce was on familiar turf.
He began his coaching career in Cleveland, hired by Mike Brown in 2007. Pierce has former Cavs assistants Melvin Hunt and Chris Jent on his staff.
“It’s somewhat surreal when you think about it starting here 12 years ago,” Pierce said. “We spent many days and afternoons here at the Q. A lot of credit to Mike and the opportunity he gave all of us.”
Hawks: Host Dallas in their home opener on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Wednesday.
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Lions climb to .500 by beating Dolphins 32-21
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
Monday, October 22
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Caught from behind on a 71-yard run, Kerryon Johnson took some locker room ribbing, the kind that comes after a victory on the road.
Johnson rushed for 158 yards Sunday to help the Detroit Lions beat Miami 32-21. His teammates thought he should have had more, but safety Reshad Jones ran him down after the Lions’ longest run in seven years.
“Look, since high school I’ve been caught from behind enough times for me to know that’s how it happens in life,” Johnson said. “But I haven’t run 71 yards in a long time, so I was proud of myself.”
The Lions (3-3) had lots of reasons to feel good after climbing to .500, their high-water mark so far this season. The Dolphins (4-3), by contrast, fell out of their first-place tie with New England in the AFC East.
Here are things to know about both teams:
GROUND GAME: The Lions netted 248 yards on the ground, their highest total since the Barry Sanders era in 1997, and averaged 7.1 per rush. The same team rushed for 39 yards in a season-opening loss to the New York Jets.
“When you go out and you can execute and do it the right way, it looks really good,” coach Matt Patricia said. “We’ve seen it when it doesn’t look so good.”
For the first time this season, the Lions had more rushes than pass plays. Quarterback Matt Stafford was fine with that, given the results.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Our guys up front dominated. They played great. I thought our receivers in the back end blocked well, and then obviously our backs were awesome. It was a lot of fun to watch them do their thing.
“I haven’t been a part of too many of those, and it was a whole lot of fun.”
When he did throw, Stafford was a model of efficiency. He went 18 for 22 for 217 yards with two scores and no turnovers for a season-high rating of 138.1.
Stafford had his fifth game in row with at least two touchdown passes and a 100 passer rating. He threw four interceptions in opener, but has only one since.
The injury-plagued Dolphins lost two more key players. Dynamic receiver Albert Wilson was sidelined in the first half, and receiver Kenny Stills limped to the locker room with a minute left.
Wilson’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said his client suffered a hip injury that appeared significant.
“I would say the best-case scenario is that he would miss a few weeks,” Rosenhaus said during his weekly appearance on South Florida’s WSVN-TV. “Worst-case scenario is he could possibly miss the rest of the season.”
There won’t be much time for any Dolphins to mend — they play Thursday at the Houston Texans (4-3), who earned their fourth consecutive victory Sunday by winning at Jacksonville.
“We’ll figure something out,” coach Adam Gase said. “It’s going to be a short week, but at the same time we’ll have enough guys to be ready to go.”
RUSHING THE PASSER
Detroit defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois had two sacks and two quarterback hurries. He said he was effective, in part, because the Lions’ ball-control attack allowed him to stay fresh by spending a lot of time on the sideline.
“I love the offense,” Francois said. “I love when they are running that ball, passing, and you just keep hearing ‘first down, first down, first down.’ I’m a big fan of our offense. Our offense did their job, ate the clock, ran the ball, controlled the game.”
Brock Osweiler played well in his second start filling in for the injured Ryan Tannehill. Osweiler went 22 for 31 for 239 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers.
Tannehill is nursing a sore throwing shoulder, and Gase declined to shed any light on his status for the Texans.
“I don’t know yet because we haven’t gotten that far yet,” Gase said. “I was worried about today.”
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