Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, April 08, 2001

Castroneves wins pole in changing conditions

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The temporary street circuit at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach dried out just enough -- and just soon enough -- to turn pole qualifying into a shootout.

Helio Castroneves was the driver left standing.

The Brazilian nipped Kenny Brack and Tony Kanaan for the fifth pole of his career, driving his Honda-powered Reynard across the finish line moments after the checkered flag waved to end the 30-minute session.

The on and off rain began early Saturday morning and kept all the CART teams guessing right to the end of qualifying.

The first of two groups of qualifiers went out on a drying track and ended their half hour on the 12-turn circuit in downtown Long Beach with unheralded Michel Jourdain Jr. of Mexico on top at 101.809 mph.

That speed appeared in serious jeopardy with the faster group ready to hit the track, but the rain began again moments before they took the green flag.

''We had to start from zero again,'' Castroneves said. ''All day it was rain and dry, rain and dry. I knew I'd just have to be patient.''

Martinsville: So many factors, so little certainty

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- As one of three short tracks left on the Winston Cup circuit, Martinsville Speedway is an oddity, a place where factors like brakes, tires and pit location toy with the minds of drivers.

The Virginia 500 Winston Cup race figures to be no exception Sunday, especially if qualifying and Saturday's practice were an indication.

Ward Burton qualified fourth here last October. On Friday, he posted the 38th-fastest qualifying speed and needed a provisional to make the field.

''The car was a piece of junk,'' Burton said after his run.

It was only marginally better in practice Saturday, when Burton's fastest lap was 91.971 mph, 25th among the 43 cars entered and far behind Jerry Nadeau, who led the field at 92.642 mph.

''We're behind the eight-ball now,'' Burton said.

Throughout the garage area, drivers said they expected Sunday's 500-lap event to be a study in tire strategy because of a new Goodyear model.

''It's going to be exciting because it is going to be a chess game all the way,'' said Kenny Wallace, who will start 28th.

Scott Hamilton leaves skating tour he founded

PORTLAND, Maine a-- Surrounded on the ice by 30 or so of his skating friends, and with a few thousand adoring fans in the audience, Scott Hamilton ended his touring career Saturday night.

The 1984 Olympic gold medalist's final performance with Target Stars on Ice, the show he founded 15 years ago and developed into one of the most successful of all skating tours, went normally. Until the conclusion, that is, when more than two dozen former cast members joined the current cast on the ice to pay tribute to him.

''Pure blind unadulterated love is what I'm feeling right now,'' said Hamilton, 42, who recovered from testicular cancer in 1997 to return to the tour for the last four seasons.

On hand along with tour regulars Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Kurt Browning, Ilia Kulik and the seven other members of the 2001 cast were the likes of Rosalyn Sumners, Christopher Dean, Paul Wylie, Katarina Witt and Ekaterina Gordeeva. Performers from the first season of Stars on Ice in 1986 right up to Lipinski, the youngest-ever cast member, took part in the farewell.

''We all bow down to Scott, he is one of the greatest performers on and off the ice,'' said Sandra Bezic, a world-class choreographer who has directed the tour since 1992. ''He reaches every single person with his standard of performance and his integrity and dedication to performing under any circumstance, and treating every single audience with the same respect. That has taught the other skaters to have that kind of integrity.''

Sumners, who never missed a show on tour until retiring in 1999, also had her last performance in Portland. She understood the emotions Hamilton was feeling as his finale approached.

''Every single night, especially in practice before the show, you just skate around and treasure each moment in each arena,'' said Sumners, who was a silver medalist at the '84 Games. ''When it is over for him, it will be a scary feeling, because nothing will be as much fun or bring the great memories; there is nothing to replace it.

''And this was his baby and Scott felt the responsibility for its growth. I am sure he spent 15 years building the security of the show, and he is secure about putting in the right team and knowing it will live on without him. You ask, 'What is my baby going to do when I am gone?' Yet he knows there are people behind the show who love it as much as he does. That's a proud and comforting thing to know.''

Hamilton knew something special was planned for his final show, but made it clear he didn't want to be told any details. When he saw many familiar faces from the past, he clearly was taken aback -- not an easy thing to do to the master showman.

The standing ovation and adoration from the crowds had become a given. But this tribute was a bonus.

''He has touched the hearts of everyone,'' said Bob Kain, who originated Stars on Ice with Hamilton, his longtime friend. ''Scott loves to climb these mountains and loves the challenges and he has had so many. I was concerned he would forget to enjoy the final ride while getting nuts over what he would do the next few years. But he has enjoyed it and that is very cool.''

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