Saturday, February 10, 2018


 Marco Eguchi (Poa, Brazil) picked up his first PBR (Professional Bull Riders) round win of the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast (UTB) during the opening night of the Caterpillar Classic at Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Eguchi rode Reign Lashes Testified (T-Raybulls/Paradigm Bull Co/Rockin T Ranch) for 89.75 points on Saturday night. For the Round 1 victory, he earned 100 world points and $3,580. Reign Lashes Testified has an unusual connection to the PBR as the bovine athlete bears the name of 2016 PBR World Champion Cooper Davis’ wife, Kaitlyn’s, lash company. This is the first event the bull has bucked under his new name.
A pair of fellow Brazilians, Dener Barbosa (Paulo de Faria, Brazil) and Fabiano Vieira (Perola, Brazil), finished in second and third place, respectively, during the first round. Barbosa covered Night Sweats (Plummer/Hart Cattle Co.) and earned $2,750 and 60 points towards the PBR world standings. Vieira conquered Barn Cat (Halpain/Long) to earn 50 world points and $2,000.
Newcomer Chase Robbins (Marsing, Idaho) debuted on the premier series with his first UTB qualified ride. Robbins made the whistle aboard Ol’ Boy(Center Point Ranch) to finish in fourth place and earn $1,300 along with 40 world points, moving him from No. 28th in the world to No. 18.
A trio of Brazilians, Joao Ricardo Vieira (Itatinga, Brazil), Guilherme Marchi (Tres Lagoas, Brazil) and Claudio Montanha Jr. (Ribeirão dos Indios, Brazil) rounded out the final scoring for the night. Vieira took fifth place after covering Big City (Plummer/Hart Cattle Co.) for 86.50 points. He earned 30 points towards the world standings and $850. Marchi finished in sixth with an 86.25-point ride on The Punisher (Bill Henson/Gene Owen/Floyd Bucking Bulls), earning 15 world points and $600. Montanha reached 8 seconds aboard Golden (Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) to add 5 world points to his standings along with a paycheck of $450. 
Round 1 was an ABBI (American Bucking Bull, Inc.) Classic event, a competition for 3 and 4-year-old bucking bulls. D&H Cattle Co.’s Fearless won the Classic with 90.80 points, taking home more than $10,000. Sky Harbor (T-Ray Bulls/Paradigm Bull Co.) placed second with 89.40 points for $6,390. Detective Crockett (GT Bucking Bulls) and Mind Freak (D&H Cattle/Buck Cattle) both scored 88.40 to split third with just under $4,000 apiece in winnings.
Mr. Majestic (Cord McCoy/Wold), Night Sweats and Reign Lashes Testified all tied for fifth with a score of 87.60, taking home $2,485 each.
This was Fearless’ debut with the ABBI while Sky Harbor has bucked his opponents off in less than two seconds in his last three outs.
More than $35,000 was paid out to the stock contractors on Saturday night.

The Top 35 bull riders in the world will return to Sprint Center tomorrow for Championship Sunday. Each rider will face one more bull in Round 2 before the Top 15 move on to the championship round where a winner will be crowned. Televised
Championship Sunday will begin at 1:45 p.m. CT, and all the action will be televised on CBS Sports Network with coverage of Round 2 and the Championship Round airing at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Fans will also be able to watch the action in its entirety at Action from Round 1 will be viewable starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, February 10. Round 2 and the Championship Round can be seen starting at 8:00 a.m. ET on Monday, February 11.

25th PBR: Unleash The Beast
Caterpillar Classic
Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Round 3-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Marco Antonio Eguchi, 89.75-0-0-89.75-100 Points.
2. Dener Barbosa, 89.25-0-0-89.25-60 Points.
3. Fabiano Vieira, 87.25-0-0-87.25-50 Points.
4. Chase Robbins, 87-0-0-87.00-40 Points.
5. Joao Ricardo Vieira, 86.5-0-0-86.50-30 Points.
6. Guilherme Marchi, 86.25-0-0-86.25-15 Points.
7. Claudio Montanha Jr., 85-0-0-85.00-5 Points.
8. Emilio Resende, 83.5-0-0-83.50
9. Cody Teel, 82.25-0-0-82.25
10. Keyshawn Whitehorse, 81.75-0-0-81.75
11. Mason Lowe, 81.5-0-0-81.50
12. J.B. Mauney, 73-0-0-73.00
Stetson Lawrence, 0-0-0-0.00
Cody Nance, 0-0-0-0.00
Valdiron de Oliveira, 0-0-0-0.00
Kaique Pacheco, 0-0-0-0.00
Eduardo Aparecido, 0-0-0-0.00
Dakota Buttar, 0-0-0-0.00
Jose Vitor Leme, 0-0-0-0.00
Luciano De Castro, 0-0-0-0.00
Brennon Eldred, 0-0-0-0.00
Brady Oleson, 0-0-0-0.00
Tye Chandler, 0-0-0-0.00
Derek Kolbaba, 0-0-0-0.00
Cody Campbell, 0-0-0-0.00
Ramon de Lima, 0-0-0-0.00
Lindomar Lino, 0-0-0-0.00
Rubens Barbosa, 0-0-0-0.00
Paulo Ferreira Lima, 0-0-0-0.00
Silvano Alves, 0-0-0-0.00
Edgar Durazo, 0-0-0-0.00
Wallace Vieira de Oliveira, 0-0-0-0.00
Colten Jesse, 0-0-0-0.00
Juan Carlos Contreras, 0-0-0-0.00
Ricky Aguiar, 0-0-0-0.00
Stormy Wing, 0-0-0-0.00


Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Caterpillar Classic on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
Mauney returns with gritty qualified ride
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney returned in gritty fashion following a four-week layoff with a right groin injury.
Mauney got caught being a tad bit too aggressive against Little Texas on Saturday night and almost got flung over the ABBI Classic bull’s head before he hung off the side for the remaining three seconds of his 73-point ride.
The 31-year-old was wincing as he went to pick up his bull rope and had a noticeable limp in his step. Mauney was offered a re-ride seeing as Little Texas fell down at the end, but Mauney decided to turn down the option and keep his score.
Mauney had not turned down a re-ride option since April 2016.
“(Cody) Lambert said the re-ride was hard to get out on and bad in the chute,” Mauney said. “The last time he was out he fouled himself pretty bad, so he told me I better keep the score. I listened to him.”
Mauney would have faced Striker if he had accepted the option. Striker was originally Derek Kolbaba’s bull for Round 1, but Striker became the first re-ride after Kolbaba was unable to make it to Kansas City for Round 1 because of a mechanical issue on his scheduled airplane out of Pasco, Washington, on Saturday morning.
Kolbaba said he expects to make it to Kansas City in time for Championship Sunday.
In regards to Striker, Lambert’s prediction was spot on.
Joao Ricardo Vieira was eventually given a re-ride in Round 1 after a failed trip with Big City, and he was then awarded another re-ride after being unable to get out of the chutes with Striker.
The third time was the charm for Vieira. He converted on Fire Rock in the duo’s eighth meeting all time for 86.5 points and a fifth-place finish in Round 1.
Mauney finished 12th in Round 1 and said he will be fine for his Round 2 matchup against Something Magical (3-2, PBR UTB) on Championship Sunday.
“I mean it is sore,” Mauney said. “I had been getting on a drop barrel, but it is nothing like getting on a real bull, and then him snatching on you especially when you are hanging off the side trying to make the whistle.
“I am just a little tender, but I am good to go.”
Dener Barbosa extends world lead on No. 2 Montanha
World leader Dener Barbosa knew he had a potential round-winner on his hands on Saturday night, and the 8-second magician nearly took home 100 world points when he covered Night Sweats for 89.25 points on the final ride of the night.
The ride wasn’t good enough to top Marco Eguchi’s 89.75 points on Reign Lashes Testified, but Barbosa’s PBR-leading 17th qualified ride earned him a second-place finish and 60 world points.
“I saw Jess (Lockwood) ride this bull before and I saw the bull kind of pulls up a little bit to the front,” Barbosa said with the help of Guilherme Marchitranslating. “I tried to stay square and finish strong. I made a good ride after trying with everything I can on that bull.”
Barbosa extended his lead atop the world standings to 146.67 points on Claudio Montanha Jr., who finished Round 1 in seventh-place (five world points) courtesy of his 85-point ride on Golden.
The 23-year-old said he isn’t worrying about what other contenders such as Montanha Jr. are doing.
“I pay attention to him, but there is nothing I can do if he rides his bulls,” Barbosa said. “I just need to ride my bull and not worry about the consequences.”
Barbosa will face Wired Child (21-7, PBR UTB) in Round 2 Sunday at Sprint Center.
This weekend is a good opportunity for Barbosa to create some breathing room between him and the other World Champion contenders with Ryan Dirteater (fractured ribs) and Cooper Davis (riding hand) out because of injuries.
“I am feeling great and feeling strong,” Barbosa said. “I am staying strong in the race. I want to do everything I can. I have confidence at every event and every bull I get on.”
Eguchi wins first round since Last Cowboy Standing
Marco Eguchi began the weekend ranked 64th in the world standings and was beginning to flirt a little bit with a potential cutline scenario if he didn’t turn around his season.
Well thanks to a nice bull with pink ear tags, Eguchi is a step closer to avoiding the cutline in three weeks following his season-high 89.75 points aboard Reign Lashes Testified.
Eguchi won Round 1 and picked up 100 points toward the world standings and moves all the way up to 35th in the world heading into the Kansas City finale on Sunday.
It is his first round win since last year’s Last Cowboy Standing.
“I saw two videos of him at the Finals and one at the Finals with Luciano (de Castro),” Eguchi said. “He is on the left delivery and still comes around to the right. That is what he did with me. He was right around the right and I did my best to ride him.”
Reign Lashes Testified has pink ear tags as part of a sponsorship deal with Cooper Davis’ wife, Kaitlyn, who has an eye-lash company.
“That is her bull?” Eguchi said in amazement. “If they (sponsor) him, this means he must be pretty good like tonight.”
Eguchi has drawn Milky Jones (18-4, PBR UTB) for Round 2. Milky Jones is 3-0 against Eguchi.
The 28-year-old wasn’t the only rider outside the Top 35 to come through with a qualified ride in Round 1.
No. 44 Emilio Resende began the night with 83.5 points on Calico Kickinand No. 124 Mason Lowe made the whistle on Vertical Hazard for 81.5 points.
Neither Resende nor Lowe earned points toward the world standings, though, and they will need rides in Round 2 to try and gain ground in the race to avoid being relegated to the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour after they run out of their eight guaranteed events.
Resende is set to meet Ram It (5-10, PBR UTB) in Round 2, while Lowe will square off against Wild Sky’s (5-2, PBR UTB).
KC draw: Lockwood out with knee injuries; four riders to debut (2-7-18)
Reigning PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood made a valiant effort to try and ride in the championship round last week after a rough hang-up aboard Blue Gangster in Round 2 of the Anaheim Invitational.
One week later and Lockwood is going to play it safe and take some time off.
Lockwood confirmed on Wednesday that he will miss the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City on Saturday and Sunday because of injuries to both his knees in Anaheim.
“Tandy (Freeman) said (I have) small tears/sprained both MCL’s I believe,” Lockwood said. “They feel really awesome, but I want to have them 100 percent rather than try to show how tough I can be and ride with them messed up and hurt myself even more.”
Lockwood is 15th in the world standings and may not return until the WinStar World Casino & Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, on Feb. 24.
The 20-year-old has been going to physical therapy every day and icing his knees at home in Volborg, Montana. 
Meanwhile, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney (right groin/right shoulder) and Stormy Wing (knee) are returning to competition in Kansas City.
Mauney has missed the last four events and will face Little Texas (1-0, PBR UTB) in Round 1.
Wing has missed two weeks with his knee injury and has drawn Concealed Carry (0-0, PBR UTB).
The Dalhart, Texas, cowboy is one of four riders from last year’s Top 30 that are currently below the Top 35 of the world standings.
As a reminder, riders that placed 1-30 in the 2017 world standings are guaranteed eight events before being subject to the cutline.
No. 39 Emilio Resende, No. 64 Marco Eguchi and No. 117 Mason Lowehave three weeks left to try and crack the Top 35 before facing relegation to the Velocity Tour. Wing still has six events including Kansas City.
There are four riders making their season-debuts in Kansas City – No. 24 Keyshawn Whitehorse, No. 27 Lindomar Lino, No. 28 Chase Robbinsand No. 36 Colten Jesse.
Robbins is making his premier series debut after competing primarily in the PRCA in prior seasons. The 22-year-old went 10-for-15 on the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour with three runner-up finishes and earned 180 world points and a spot on the Unleash The Beast.
The Marsing, Idaho, bull rider is a third generation cowboy. He first got on bulls at 10 years old and his father, Cory, used to ride bulls, while his grandfather owned cattle in Idaho. In 2013, Robbins rode at the National High School Finals Rodeo, and he also was a wrestler and football player for Marsing High School.  
Robbins has drawn Ol’ Boy (1-0, PBR UTB) for Round 1.
Jesse, who won last weekend’s Velocity Tour event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of three alternate riders alongside Wallace de Oliveira and Juan Carlos Contreras.
He and Oliveira are tied for 36th in the world standings, but are only 15 points behind No. 35 Edgar Durazo.
Jesse takes on Medicine Man (0-0, PBR UTB) in Round 1, and Oliveira has a matchup against Sky Harbor (1-0, PBR UTB).
Contreras is tied for 39th in the world and is 25 points behind Durazo. The 27-year-old has drawn Big Black (3-0, PBR UTB).
World leader Dener Barbosa will look for his PBR-leading 17th ride of the year when he squares off against Night Sweats (2-0, PBR UBT).
Also not competing in Kansas City is Ryan Dirteater (fractured ribs), Gage Gay (reconstructive knee surgery), Matt Triplett (reconstructive shoulder surgery), Chase Outlaw (reconstructive shoulder surgery) and Shane Proctor (personal decision).

Austin Dillon lands Advance Auto Parts Clash pole in drawing

Austin Dillon landed the pole position for Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash with nary a show of speed nor skill. Instead, Saturday’s pole-winning move came courtesy of luck, from a fill-in representative of Richard Childress Racing.
Dillon’s RCR No. 3 Chevrolet will lead the 17-car field to the green flag Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) in the annual 75-lap exhibition. Lead engineer Seth Chavka, subbing for crew chief Justin Alexander, and a young participant from quarter-midget competition pulled the No. 1 starting position in a blind draw at Saturday evening’s Speedweeks Premiere at Daytona fan festival in the Daytona International Speedway infield.
Chavka indicated that Alexander has been ailing from a case of the flu, and that his status for Sunday’s race was in limbo. No matter who’s atop the pit box for Dillon and the No. 3 bunch, Chavka said starting from the pole was a pleasant perk.
“I think it matters a little bit,” Chavka said. “I mean, if we can stay up front, we’re going to do that all night long. That’s the goal for every week.”
Denny Hamlin will start alongside Dillon on the front row after his crew chief, Mike Wheeler, drew the No. 2 spot. Joey Logano, Erik Jones and Jimmie Johnson will round out the top five starting positions.
Clash participants completed their only practice Saturday morning, and Ryan Blaney — set for his first full season driving the Team Penske No. 12 — led that 80-minute session. Blaney will start 15th Sunday.
The field is primarily made up of last year’s pole winners, which account for 12 of the 17 drivers. The rest of the field includes last year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff participants (three) and former Daytona 500 pole winners (two).
Full lineup for The Clash:
1-Austin Dillon, No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
2-Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
3-Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford
4-Erik Jones, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
5-Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
6-Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota
7-Kasey Kahne, No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet
8-Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
9-Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
10-Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
11-Ryan Newman, No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
12-Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
13-Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
14-Kurt Busch, No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
15-Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford
16-Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
17-Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford

Rookie Byron leads final practice before Daytona 500 qualifying; Kyle Busch tops earlier run

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie William Byron led the final practice round before Daytona 500 qualifying Saturday, circling Daytona International Speedway at 201.681 mph in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Byron earned the top spot despite a couple of close calls with other drivers when the No. 24 drifted up the track in the draft.
“Yeah, that was one of those ‘Oh, shoot!’ moments, but that was a lot of fun,” Byron said. “That was the best chance for me to really learn what I needed to do in the draft.” 
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second-fastest in practice, logging a speed of 201.649 mph in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Joey Logano was third in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford at 201.608 mph, while Denny Hamlin finished fourth in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 201.464 mph.
David Ragan rounded out the top five in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
NASCAR told teams to make a gear change for Saturday’s final practice, though speeds still increased from the initial practice, where Kyle Busch had the fastest car at 199.743 mph.
The practice was the final one before Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday at 12:15 p.m. ET (FOX).
Kyle Busch led all drivers in Saturday’s opening Daytona 500 practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, circling the track at 199.743 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Busch led all four JGR drivers, who all finished in the top five: Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the No. 11 Toyota at 199.623 mph, Daniel Suarez was third in the No. 19 Toyota at 199.610 and Erik Jones was fourth in the No. 20 Toyota at 199.517 mph.
Austin Dillon was fifth-fastest in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at 197.278 mph.
The red flag came out for 16 minutes of the 50-minute practice session as NASCAR officials worked to clean fluid on the track.

Kyle Busch leads JGR charge in opening Daytona 500 practice

Kyle Busch led all drivers in Saturday’s opening Daytona 500 practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, circling the track at 199.743 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Busch led all four JGR drivers, who all finished in the top five: Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the No. 11 Toyota at 199.623 mph, Daniel Suarez was third in the No. 19 Toyota at 199.610 and Erik Jones was fourth in the No. 20 Toyota at 199.517 mph.
Austin Dillon was fifth-fastest in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at 197.278 mph.
The red flag came out for 16 minutes of the 50-minute practice session as NASCAR officials worked to clean fluid on the track.
Monster Energy Series cars return to the track at 3:05 p.m. ET (FS1) for the final practice before Sunday’s Daytona 500 qualifying.

Ryan Blaney leads a Ford-heavy leaderboard in Clash practice

Ryan Blaney topped the leaderboard in Daytona International Speedway’s opening weekend practice for The Clash on Saturday, rounding the track at 199.601 mph in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.
Three more Fords recorded top speeds in the practice, with Joey Logano clocking in at 199.543 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. logging a lap in 199.508 mph in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, and Brad Keselowski recording a speed of 199.490 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.
Kyle Larson rounded out the top five in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at 199.468 mph.
The qualifying draw takes place Saturday evening, and competitors for The Clash will be back on the track for the 75-lap, 187.5-mile race Sunday at 3 p.m. ET (FS1).

Swiss top unified Koreans

Despite falling 8-0 to Switzerland in their PyeongChang opener, the unified Korean women’s team made Olympic history on Saturday.

On any other night, Swiss star Alina Muller’s Olympic-record six-point night (4-2-6) would have dominated the headlines. But the diplomatic implications of this game in the quest for peace and unity were impossible to ignore.
Saturday marked the first time that the Republic of Korea in the south and the Democratic People’s Republic (DPR) of Korea in the north have ever fielded a joint team in any Olympic sport. The agreement was only finalized in January. The 2018 women’s hockey team is competing under a blue-and-white flag depicting the Korean peninsula.
Among the 3,601 spectators, having some 200 red-clad female North Korean cheerleaders singing, clapping and swaying added to the unforgettable atmosphere at the Kwandong Hockey Centre.
Phoebe Staenz and Lara Stalder also scored twice for Switzerland, which outshot Korea 52-8. Sara Benz added three assists. As hard as the Korean women worked, they couldn’t match their opponents’ skill and opportunism.
Muller was the youngest player in Sochi at 15 when the Swiss women won their historic 2014 Olympic bronze medal. Her explosion here tied the single-game goals record co-owned by Switzerland’s Stephanie Marty and Sweden’s Pernilla Winberg, who both had four-goal games at the 2010 Winter Games. With six points, she also equalled Canada's Cherie Piper (2006) and Jayna Hefford (2010) for the most points in one game.
Korea has an exemption to have a 35-player roster, but can only ice 22 players in a game, like the other seven Olympic teams. From a pool of 12 DPR Korea players, head coach Sarah Murray chose to dress three forwards: Chung Gum Hwang, who helped to carry the Korean flag at Friday's opening ceremonies; Su Hyon Jong, who carried the Olympic torch along with South Korean captain Jongah Park; and Un Hyang Kim.
In this developing hockey nation, the fans responded enthusiastically even to simple plays like dump-ins or near-misses. There was a constant feeling of cresting anticipation. Even with victory out of reach, the crowd hungered for a goal.
Switzerland’s Florence Schelling set a new record for most Olympic games played by a goalie (15). The 2014 Olympic MVP was previously tied with Finland’s Noora Raty (active) and Russia’s Irina Gashennikova (retired) with 14 apiece. Schelling also tied Canada’s Kim St-Pierre (retired) for most career Olympic shutouts (four).
Fired up, the Koreans came out hard, getting two consecutive power plays. They also got the best early chance. Heewon Kim, this tournament’s youngest player at 16, stole the puck from Stalder at the blue line. When Stalder hauled her down, Soojin Han sped in on a breakaway and zinged it off the cross bar.
But the good times were short-lived for the hosts. The feisty Muller opened the scoring on a shorthanded solo rush, cutting inside on the Korean defence and beating netminder So Jung Shin to the glove side at 10:23.
Just a minute later, Muller made it 2-0 on another outnumbered rush, converting Sara Benz’s cross-ice pass past the defenceless Korean goalie.
The 19-year-old ZSC Lions Frauen sniper completed her natural hat trick at 19:48. The Swiss worked it around the zone like the famous 1980’s Soviet “Green Unit,” and Muller banged it home at the goalie’s left post.
At 1:26 of the second period, Muller capitalized on a Korean giveaway in the slot and wired home her fourth of the night. Just 55 seconds later, Evelina Raselli fed Staenz cross-ice on the rush to make it 5-0. Staenz clicked again on another Raselli set-up at 17:19 to give Switzerland a six-goal lead.

In the third period, Stalder made it 7-0 at 9:42 with a power play drive, and then coolly finished off a breakaway at 11:48 to round out the scoring.
Korea’s Olympic hockey debut attracted big names. IOC President Thomas Bach, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and Kim Yong-nam (President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly) entered the arena with smiles and handshakes. Also present were Switzerland’s Federal President Alain Berset, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder attended with his Korean fiancee Kim So-yeon.

Winning start for Sweden

Sweden opens its Olympic campaign with a 2-1 victory over Japan, but for the second Games running Japan pushed Tre Kronor all the way.

After all the talk and anticipation, the hockey action finally got away in PyeongChang on Saturday, and Sweden's women were the first to celebrate victory edging a hard-earned verdict over a brave Japan.
Sara Hjalmarsson's goal early in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and handed the Europeans the victory, but better finishing from the Japanese could easily have delivered a very different story. Swedish goalie Sara Grahn finished with 30 saves to preserve her team's slender advantage even after Japan finished with a 6-on-4 set-up for the last 40 seconds.
For Japanese forward Hanae Kubo, the outcome was bitterly disappointing. "I had a good chance to tie the game and I didn't take it, so I'm not satisfied," she said. "For the last four years, we've been trying to improve our physical strength so we can compete with the top teams. I think we have done that, but it did not help us today."
It was a match-up that promised intrigue: four years ago in Sochi the two teams met at the start of the Group B program and Japan, in its first games since hosting the inaugural women’s competition in 1998, pushed the Swedes all the way before going down 0-1. Four years on, the Japanese hoped to claim a first ever victory in Olympic women’s hockey action – and could point to a roster buoyed by several players who had spent time playing overseas in North America or Finland in the intervening years.
Against a newly streetwise Japan, Sweden included 17-year-old blue liner Maja Nylen-Persson, a star of the Tre Kronor’s run to World U18 silver in Russia last month. The youngster almost made an immediate impact when her early slap shot narrowly evaded Rebecca Stenberg’s attempt to deflect it beyond Nana Fujimoto in the Japanese net.
Japan scrambled that one away, but the reprieve was short-lived. Fanny Rask claimed the honour of the first goal of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games when she collected a Sabina Kuller pass and lifted the puck over Fujimoto’s shoulder and inside the near post to score from a tight angle. Rask, whose brother Victor helped Sweden to men’s World Championship gold in Cologne last year, needed just 2:21 to bag her first ever Olympic goal after failing to register a point in Sochi.
"I could see that opening between her head and the crossbar, and it was a fast shot," Rask said. "The goal came on my line's first shift, so it was a pretty good way to start. I've never scored on my first shift in a game as important as this."
Delight for Sweden, but for Japan it was time to show some steel behind the Smiles. And gradually the Asian team, enthusiastically backed by a large contingent that had made the short trip across the Sea of Japan, got into the game. Grahn felt the full force of a Haruka Toko shot into her helmet but recovered in time to make a sharp blocker save from Hanae Kubo. Then the Swedish goalie got an extended leg behind Suzuka Taka’s attempt after a defensive error. At the other end, Stenberg could have doubled the lead on a breakaway play but Fujimoto came up with a big save.
The middle frame slipped into a something of a lull, with chances at a premium for both teams. But the Japanese fans – the country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, joined them during the game – had plenty to cheer in the 37th minute when Rui Ukita tied the game. Toko’s hard work behind the net was rewarded when a scramble in front of Grahn’s net ended with Ukita smashing home the puck on the backhand after Kubo’s pass squeezed across the face of goal.
Ukita, who has been playing the game since she was just seven years old, described the goal as the finest moment of a career - ahead of her four-point haul at the 2015 Women's World Championship when she led her country's scoring as an 18-year-old.
The game was brimming with Eastern promise going into the third, as Japan scented a chance to record its first ever victory at the Olympics. But that dream was shattered within two minutes of the restart as Hjalmarsson restored Sweden’s lead. Erika Grahm forced a turnover in the Japanese zone, and her feed from the behind the net was gobbled up by the AIK Stockholm forward from close range.
Japan still created chances: two power-play opportunities went begging, while Ami Nakamura fired a tame shot into Grahn’s midriff when well-placed and Ukita was denied a second by the goalie after lax defence presented her with a position similar to the one from which Hjalmarsson scored the decisive goal.
However, the team of smiles lacked the necessary bite to tie the scores a second time and, just as in Sochi, fell to a tight loss against a fancied opponent after one last big save from Grahn to deny Nakamura.

2018 team preview: Wood Brothers Racing


Manufacturer: Ford
Engine: Roush-Yates 
Drivers: Paul Menard, No. 21
Crew chiefs: Greg Erwin
2017 standings: Menard, 23rd in final standings (with Richard Childress Racing); Ryan Blaney piloted the No. 21 Ford to a ninth-place finish in the standings in 2017.
What’s new: Menard joins up with Wood Brothers Racing as Blaney moves to Team Penske to be the team’s third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver after his breakout 2017 year. Menard had spent the past seven seasons at RCR. Veteran crew chief Greg Erwin moves over from Team Penske – with that technical partnership still in place – to serve as the pit boss. He most recently served as the crew chief for the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, which won the Xfinity Series Owners’ title in 2017. The team also reached an agreement to secure a charter from Go Fas Racing for the 2018 season and beyond.
What to watch: Wood Brothers is one win away from 100 wins in the storied organization’s history. The Daytona 500 will serve as Menard’s 400th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. After seven years at RCR, Menard joins a new organization that is fresh off a run to the Round of 8 of the playoffs.
Key question(s): Can Menard carry forward the momentum established by Blaney with Wood Brothers? Is a fresh start just what Menard needs for a career resurgence? Will Menard snap his 232-race winless drought and earn win No. 100 for the Wood Brothers?


Paul Menard, No. 21 Menards Ford: After making the playoffs in 2015, Menard is coming off two straight seasons outside the top 20 in the standings. A move to Wood Brothers could serve as a catalyst for a resurgence for the veteran driver whose lone premier series win came at Indianapolis in 2011. “It’s going to take a little bit to work out a few bugs like it does with any new situation,” Menard said of his new team. “These first few races will be pretty important to open up communication and just be totally honest with each other, push each other and learn each other so that when the summer rolls around we’re ready to continue for top 10s, top fives and wins.”

2018 team preview: Richard Childress Racing


Manufacturer: Chevrolet
Engine: ECR Engines
Drivers Austin Dillon, No. 3; Ryan Newman, No. 31
Crew chiefs: Justin Alexander (Dillon), Luke Lambert (Newman)
2017 standings: Dillon, 11th in final standings (eliminated in Round of 16); Newman, 16th in final standings (eliminated in Round of 16)
What’s new: Richard Childress Racing enters 2018 as a full-time, two-car operation. Paul Menard has moved on to Wood Brothers Racing, and the team elected not to fill his No. 27 Chevrolet full time. RCR finalized a new alliance with Richard Petty Motorsports during the offseason, with the iconic RPM shop relocating to Welcome, North Carolina so the teams can work in tandem. The team also dipped into the past by re-hiring Andy Petree, a championship-winning crew chief with Dale Earnhardt at RCR in 1993 and 1994. Petree, who said that Childress is “totally committed to winning,” will serve as the organization’s vice president of competition.
What to watch: Both Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman are confident in their respective team’s ability to build off 2017’s playoff runs. Dillon qualified the team’s performance in 2017 as modest gains; now, he’s looking to make a big one. 
Key question(s): How will the team dynamic change in going from three cars to two? Will that move — and the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 —  allow engineers to find the needed additional speed to compete for wins every week?


Austin Dillon, No. 3 Dow Chevrolet: Dillon broke through for his first career win in 2017 — in the Coca-Cola 600, no less – and advanced to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. His finish of 11th in the standings is the best of his career. A surprise in 2017 was Dillon’s sharp dip in top-10 finishes, which went from 13 in 2016 to just four last year — tied for the lowest of his career.
The new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 should bring immediate speed to match Dillon’s soaring expectations.
“We got our win (in 2017), and that was huge,” Dillon said. “That was one goal I had last year. I love how we finished the year as far as a consistent team. We were a consistent threat at the end of the year and had consistent finishes. Our goal is the Championship 4 this year.”
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet: Like his teammate Dillon, Newman also found Victory Lane in 2017 following a dry spell. His win at Phoenix in the spring was his first since 2013 (a 127-race span), and the first for Richard Childress Racing since that same season.
It was a special moment in Victory Lane, one that was repeated when Dillon won in Charlotte months later, but ultimately didn’t lead to success in the postseason.
The veteran’s seven top-five finishes, though, are reason for optimism. It was his highest personal total since 2011.
“From my standpoint, we had the opportunity to take the best of the best people, put them all together,” Newman said of the changes at RCR. “We have a couple small personnel changes on the 31 side, but the core group of guys as far as the crew chief and the race engineers are all the same. And our feather in our cap is the Camaro ZL1, because we feel as a design and development piece it is made to be better than what we had last year.”

2018 team preview: Roush Fenway Racing


Manufacturer: Ford
Engine: Roush-Yates 
Drivers: Trevor Bayne, No. 6; Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17
Crew chiefs: Brian Pattie (Stenhouse Jr.), Matt Puccia (Bayne) 
2017 standings: Stenhouse Jr., 13th in final standings (eliminated in Round of 12); Bayne, 22nd in final standings
What’s new: Not a lot, a welcome change for Roush Fenway Racing which has undergone organizational-wide tweaks in recent years. No new drivers, no new crew chiefs and no change in the number of full-time vehicles in the team fleet. In fact, the only real change here is a positive — Roush enters 2018 on the heels of a multi-win season, with Stenhouse Jr. winning twice in 2017 and advancing to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
What to watch: How Roush Fenway builds off the success of 2017. The team won for the first time since 2014 with Stenhouse Jr. emerging as one of NASCAR’s best drivers at Daytona and Talladega. The team’s superspeedway cars are among the fastest in the garage, thanks to the work done at the shop by Jimmy Fennig and his team. Roush is as stable as it has been in a long time.
Key question(s): Can Stenhouse Jr. and the No. 17 team show the ability to win at tracks that don’t require restrictor plates? How can Bayne and the No. 6 team break through for more top-five finishes and be in contention more for victories?


Trevor Bayne, No. 6 AdvoCare Ford: Bayne’s third full-time season driving the No. 6 in 2017 didn’t produce the same jump in numbers he saw between Year 1 and Year 2. Two top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes wasn’t what Bayne or his team had in mind; neither were the five DNFs by way of crash, a four-time increase from 2016.
A key to watch for Bayne is the midseason stretch. The 26-year-old logged seven top-15 finishes in the first nine races last year, but then just one of the next 13. The success of teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brings added optimism to the No. 6 group.
“Last year, we went into the season with a lot of changes and we had a lot of goals on the board to try to make the Playoffs,” Bayne said. “I think where we fell short were playoff points. So we kind of look and say, ‘You’ve got to get at least five playoff points per race if you’re gonna be a (playoff) contender without a win.’ That was a lot more than kind of what we anticipated, so that’s where we fell short. The way you get those is by running in the top 10 and by being faster and more competitive.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Fastenal Ford: Last year was the breakout season Stenhouse Jr. had been building toward since his first full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2013. With an assist from Jimmy Fennig managing and molding the team’s superspeedway program into one of the best in the sport, Stenhouse posted career-highs in wins, top-10s, laps led, average start and average finish in 2017. He will be a favorite to win both races at Daytona and the spring race at Talladega prior to the Playoffs beginning in September.
It’s the intermediates that remain a question, however.It’s the intermediates that remain a question, however.
“I think there’s a lot of things that are looking good for us in 2018,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I think my team has confidence in what we’re gonna be able to do. Not looking for our first win is nice, not having that riding on your back. That seemed pretty tough to deal with for a long time and now I don’t have to answer those questions, but now it’s, what other race tracks are we gonna win at? I definitely want to win at other race tracks, but going into the (Daytona) 500 I feel a lot more confident than I ever have.”king good for us in 2018,” 

2018 team preview: Germain Racing

Germain Racing
Manufacturer: Chevrolet
Engine: ECR Engines
Driver: Ty Dillon, No. 13
Crew chief: Matt Borland
2017 standings: Dillon competed in his first full season at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level and finished 24th in the standings.
What’s new: Germain Racing enters the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with sophomore driver Ty Dillon. Dillon will have a new crew chief in Matt Borland, who signed a multiyear agreement in November. Germain Racing also will field (along with the other Chevrolet teams) a new Camaro in the upcoming season.
What to watch: Dillon finished his first full-time season at the sport’s highest level with an average finish of 20.7, but the driver of the No. 13 understands he has to be more consistent if he hopes to notch his first career top 1o or even a celebration in Victory Lane. A new crew chief usually means a new approach, and with the new over-the-wall pit crew rules going into effect in 2018, Borland has a lot to work out with his young driver and his team. However, Dillon is hungry for success and that can go a long way when trying to be aggressive during a race.
Key question(s): It’s no secret that both Ty — and his older brother Austin — have a spotlight on their careers thanks to the their grandfather Richard Childress’ history in the sport. Yet, during NASCAR Media Tour Presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Ty Dillon made it clear he wanted to build his own legacy. That starts with making a splash on-track. Can Dillon use the new Camaro body to his advantage as a young driver? Will a new crew chief give him the confidence he needs to stay calm under pressure? How can he avoid the infamous ‘sophomore slump?’
Ty Dillon, No. 13 Geico Chevrolet: In November, Dillon and his wife Haley welcomed their baby girl and perspective quickly changed for the 25-year-old driver. Using that ‘new dad’ mindset, Dillon spoke in-depth on how he felt he improved toward the end of the 2017 season, especially when pressure began to mount.
Having early success in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series caused for an adjustment period during Dillon’s rookie season. A pair of 11th-place finishes in the fall (Talladega, Phoenix) were two of his best performances of the season, and he also led 27 laps at Dover in the spring. Those are small victories that can lead toward momentum in 2018.
Another stat that Dillon can use to his advantage? He averaged nearly six spots better at the end of a race than where he qualified. Being able to advance that position even higher at the beginning can only mean good things for the No. 13 team.