Brad Keselowski raced to his third consecutive NASCAR Cup victory Sunday, persevering through a wreck-filled Sunday afternoon and roaring away from the field in overtime to claim the playoff opener.
Keselowski secured team owner Roger Penske’s 500th victory across all competitions with a resourceful performance amid trying circumstances and 99-degree Las Vegas heat.
Kyle Larson was second, and defending Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. third after a stop-and-start finish to a race that featured 12 cautions.
“To start off the playoffs with a win, that’s really strong, let alone three in a row,” Keselowski said. “We nailed the pit stops and the restarts when it counted, and we were strong.”
Eight of the 16 playoff drivers had various problems in the opener of the 10-race postseason. Four playoff drivers failed to finish — including co-leader Kevin Harvick, who wrecked with 120 laps to go when he blew his right front tire.
Michael McDowell and Kurt Busch wrecked with just two laps to go, forcing a red-flag stop and overtime. After the drivers re-fired their engines for the two-lap shootout, nobody could keep up with Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford.
“We did it, boss!” Keselowski shouted. “That’s quite a number, right? It’s really great to be a part of that, and to get the last one to get us there, that’s pretty great.”
Penske was in attendance for his landmark victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He formed Team Penske in 1966, and it has fielded 50 winning drivers across 14 race series during the ensuing 52 years.
Keselowski won at Darlington and the Brickyard in consecutive weeks before Vegas. His late surge has added some intrigue into a NASCAR season dominated by the Big Three of Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch, who finished seventh in Vegas even after skidding and plowing through the infield grass with 35 laps to go.
Joey Logano finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney was fifth.
Truex moved into the overall points lead over Busch and Keselowski, who leapfrogged Harvick.
Harvick’s blowout also wrecked pole-sitter Erik Jones, who couldn’t react quickly enough and rear-ended Harvick.
Harvick likely doesn’t need a fantastic result from the first set of playoff races to advance, but the veteran driver was still furious about his tire failure.
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado — Aviation industry leaders attending the 23rd annual Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit got a glimpse of the future Saturday: Boom Supersonic presented a model of a test aircraft expected to lead to the return of speedy intercontinental travel.
And the head of the Colorado-based Boyd Group, aviation expert Mike Boyd, believes the plane could be game-changing for Las Vegas.
“A big chunk of them (Las Vegas visitors) are coming in to spend a lot of money,” Boyd said. “Do you think MGM Grand or Wynn wouldn’t want to charter an airplane like this for their high-rollers? In a New York second.”
Blake Scholl, who designed the aircraft and founded Boom in September 2014, said his airliner would be able to fly from Washington D.C. to London in 3½ hours instead of the more than seven hours it currently takes. San Francisco to Hawaii would take 2½ hours instead of five. Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles could be completed in just under seven hours instead of just under 15.
Scholl’s whole premise for the 55-passenger airliner he hopes to get off the ground by 2025 is “removing the barriers to experiencing the planet” by transporting people in half the time it currently takes.
At a hangar at Centennial Airport in suburban Denver, early arrivals for the two-day Boyd conference saw a model of the XB-1, the first independently developed supersonic jet — and history’s fastest civil aircraft.
The XB-1 and Boom’s airliner will be flown at Mach 2.2 — 1,451 mph. With an all-business-class cabin and every seat with a large window and next to the center aisle
Scholl said the XB-1, known by company employees as “Baby Boom,” is a two-seat test vehicle that will enable the company to refine its airliner design, ensuring a passenger aircraft which is efficient, reliable and safe.
Parts of the aircraft are being manufactured with lightweight carbon composites in San Diego and transported to Denver for assembly in Boom’s hangar at Centennial Airport.
Zuma at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has added several new premium-quality dishes to its menu: cured Hokkaido scallops with wasabi ponzu and yuzu tobiko, prime beef tartare with bincho mayonnaise and seaweed crisp, and Iberico pork with yuzu truffle and garlic chips. For reservations, call 702-698-2199.
Chef Mayra Trabulse and Turmeric Flavors of India chef/owner Ritesh Patel will collaborate on a five-course vegan meal from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Turmeric, 700 Fremont St. The evening will include chef demos and insights and DJ music on the restaurant’s rooftop patio. It’s $79 per person or $148 per couple, which includes one drink, beer or house wine, and parking. Tickets are available at the restaurant or at bit.ly/culinaryfusion.
Stag’s Leap dinner
The products of Stag’s Leap Winery will be featured in a dinner from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Charcoal Room at Palace Station. The five-course dinner, with an entree of mocha-dusted rib-eye cap over grilled portabella mushrooms with arugula, is $80. Call 702-221-6678.
Dinner for two
Lawry’s the Prime Rib, 4043 Howard Hughes Parkway, is offering a Silver Oak prime rib dinner for two for $150, through the end of the month. It includes the Original Spinning Bowl Salad; the Lawry cut of prime rib with creamed corn or creamed spinach, mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, or Atlantic salmon with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables; Silver Oak wine or a signature Meat & Potato Cocktail; and one dessert per guest. Call 702-893-2223.
Las Vegas stadium work crews are putting the equivalent of about $4 million a day into work at the site, and the project is on time and on budget, Las Vegas Stadium Authority officials said Thursday.
Precast steel is arriving at the site at Interstate 15 and Russell Road this week, and the last grade-level concrete slabs are scheduled to be poured later this month.
More than 500 workers are on the $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat indoor football stadium project due to be completed in time for the 2020 NFL season.
Stadium authority officials and Raiders executives also reported that sales of personal seat licenses — contracts with fans that give them access to purchasing season tickets for Raiders games for 30 years — are going better than expected.
Raiders President Marc Badain said after the meeting that the team is in the second of three phases of PSL sales, with Oakland season ticket holders getting the first crack at mid-level PSLs through mid-August. Las Vegas fans who have placed deposits will be invited to participate next.
PSLs for those seats range from $3,900 to $15,000 per seat.
Club-level and VIP seat PSLs — the most expensive at between $20,000 and $75,000 per seat — were sold between March and May. About 73 percent of those sales went to fans with Nevada addresses. Badain wouldn’t predict what percentage of buyers would be from Nevada in the current sale.
A third tier of sales will occur later in the year for the last PSLs and season tickets.
Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill said the successful sales are reflective of the popularity of the team and Las Vegas.
“The combination of the Raiders and Las Vegas is pretty hard to beat,” Hill said after the meeting. “The (Vegas) Golden Knights are giving us a run for our money, and that’s a great thing, too. The Raiders have one of the world’s greatest football brands, and Las Vegas obviously is a brand in and of itself and when you combine those two things, we’re seeing that in the interest in the stadium and sales.”
Hill said he expected PSL sales to be strong.
“I think prices that are out there is what we expected them to be,” Hill said. “We had some conversations both at the (Southern Nevada) Tourism Infrastructure Committee and throughout the Stadium Authority board process where those prices were in alignment of what they are at other stadiums, and the demand is there.”
Expansion team honored after reaching Final, uniting city following shooting
by Nicholas J. Cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist
June 20th, 2018
LAS VEGAS — It was the epilogue to the fairy tale of the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights.
Three hundred sixty-four days after assembling their first roster at the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena, they took center stage at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Four first responders and four survivors of the mass shooting on the Strip on Oct. 1 stood at one point with four members of the Golden Knights who won awards: general manager George McPhee, coach Gerard Gallant, center William Karlsson and defenseman Deryk Engelland.
The Golden Knights became Las Vegas’ first major league sports team, united the city in the aftermath of Oct. 1, shattered records for first-year teams in the regular season and made the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Washington Capitals in five games.
“It was a dream season right till Game 5,” Gallant said. “It was an unbelievable year. Obviously nobody expected us to come out of the gate like we did. Nobody expected us to be in the playoffs. We had a great team. We had a great season. Fell a little bit short, but I’ll go home this summer very proud of our group and the organization.”
McPhee won the NHL General Manager of the Year Award a little more than four years after the Capitals fired him as their GM. Though the Golden Knights had more favorable rules than previous expansion teams did, McPhee and his staff took advantage of them and exceeded expectations. They did a masterful job of collecting assets for the long term while building a team for the short term, finding players with upside, speed and character.
“It was really hard for me to believe, to be honest with you,” McPhee said. “Every month, I was like, ‘Boy, is this really happening?’ As I’ve said a number of times, I had my fingers crossed all year hoping it wouldn’t turn to dust. And each week, we kept winning. And then we won a round, and then won another round, and then won another round. And I was like, ‘This is too good to be true. We might win the Stanley Cup.’ And then we didn’t. And then you come back down to earth. But it was just an extraordinary year in all of our lives.”
Gallant won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year after getting fired as coach of the Florida Panthers in 2016-17, after being a finalist for the award with Florida in 2015-16. He brought together players discarded by other teams by keeping an open mind, putting them in positions to succeed and boosting their confidence. Nick Robone, the UNLV assistant who was shot Oct. 1, was visited by Vegas players in the hospital and got to break down video with Gallant and his staff as he recovered, made the announcement.
The Capitals have a lot to celebrate, but wanted to acknowledge their competitors first.
The Stanley Cup champions took out a full page in the Las Vegas Review-Journal to congratulate the Golden Knights on a competitive run in the championship series and a historic first season in the league.
“Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights on the most successful inaugural season in the history of professional sports,” the ad read. “World class ownership, front office, coaching staff and people. A magnificent team of talented, hard-working players and stars. A fantastic venue filled with passionate, loud and proud fans.
“It was an honor to compete against you in the Stanley Cup Final. We are truly VEGAS STRONG.”
The Washington Capitals are up 3-1 in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, but the Vegas Golden Knights are back home at T-Mobile Arena for Game 5. We checked in with our panel to answer the biggest questions — and get their pick on the game.
The Knights must ______ to win Game 5.
Greg Wyshynski, senior hockey writer: Create an ounce of doubt in the minds of the Capitals. You can count on one hand the number of times it felt like the Capitals didn’t have control of this series since Game 2. In previous rounds, the Golden Knights stunned their opponents with speed and scoring and, most importantly, a hole from which those opponents had to dig. In 10 of their 15 games preceding the Stanley Cup Final, the Knights held a lead after two periods. They won each time. They didn’t lead entering the third in this series’ first four games. “When we’re playing our game, we’re putting doubt in other teams’ minds,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. Considering the Capitals’ history with 3-1 playoff leads, that’s essential.
Emily Kaplan, national hockey reporter: Tighten up on defense and clog shooting lanes. Most lopsided stat from the Final: In the Capitals’ three wins, they have a 68-25 advantage in blocked shots. Other than that, the Golden Knights should start the game exactly as they did in Game 4, buzzing with energy. Several Vegas players said Game 4 was their best performance of the series. (I agree.) Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged — and pray that the hockey gods even out the bounces.
Chris Peters, hockey prospects writer: Dictate the pace of the game and own the puck more consistently. The Golden Knights have had stretches, even during the past few games, when they looked like the better team. If they can use their speed to keep the pressure on Washington’s blue line, test Braden Holtby and keep the puck at the other end of the ice as much as possible, they’re going to give themselves a chance. This team has thrived on everyone’s contributions, and it will need every last guy playing an attacking brand of hockey that made it one of the NHL’s best stories in years.
Victoria Matiash, fantasy hockey analyst: Erupt with a first-period effort similar to what we saw in Game 4. They were the better team through 20 minutes. Fourteen times out of 15, James Neal doesn’t miss that open net — which would set an entirely different tone for the rest of the period — and the Knights would head back to the dressing up one or more instead of down 3-0.
Ben Arledge, Insider NHL editor: Attack early and often. The crowd is the Knights’ best asset in Game 5, and you can’t lose it with a sluggish start. If Vegas can pot one in the opening minutes and set the tone, it’ll be in good shape. Start flat and let Washington play its game, though, and it will be a long night. From the puck drop, the Knights need to be the better team. Even if the game starts 30 minutes later than expected again so Panic! at the Disco can play a full set, the Golden Knights can’t afford to show up late.
What was the turning point for the Capitals’ season?
Wyshynski: The most important game of the Capitals’ season, and perhaps the Alex Ovechkin era up until this point, was Game 6 of the second round, when they eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins. Please recall that this was the game in which they were without center Nicklas Backstrom and winger Andre Burakovsky to injury, and Tom Wilson to suspension. A Game 7 seemed inevitable. Instead, the Capitals got a goal created by Alex Chiasson and Nathan Walker, neither of whom have seen a second of ice time in the Final, and the game winner created by Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The unburdening of the weight of previous playoff failures — the Capitals defeated the Penguins for just the second time in 11 series in franchise history — has propelled them to one win from the Cup.
Kaplan: What’s different about this team — as opposed to the many excellent Alex Ovechkin-led teams over the past 13 years — is its success in the playoffs. So I have to point to Game 3 of the first round. Down 2-0 in the series — after squandering regulation leads to lose in overtime — Washington finally got the bounce it needed in the form of an ugly double-overtime goal. This gave the Capitals the confidence to thwart their biggest foes, the Penguins, in the second round, and the rest is — they hope — history.
Peters: I’m going with the same series as Emily, but I’m going to go with the emphatic close-out in Game 6 against the Blue Jackets. With the Caps, no one is comfortable until a series is over. In that game, Holtby got a lot of work as the Blue Jackets just kept pouring it on, finishing with 38 shots on goal. Each time Columbus seemed to have life, the Capitals would snatch it away. That game was eye-opening and showed that this team could close, even if it was still a little hard to believe given the club’s recent postseason history.
Matiash: Wedging myself between Emily and Chris, I felt the tide truly turn in the Capitals’ favor in Game 4 against the Blue Jackets. After nailing a crucial overtime win in Game 3 to draw back into the series, Washington left little to question with a dominating 4-1 victory in Game 4. Ovechkin was terrific. Kuznetsov racked up four points. Holtby was nearly impenetrable. Although the series was now tied 2-2, there was already a sense of looking forward to the next round, and — Penguins or no Penguins — beyond.
A year ago, this team didn’t even have a team, and now this team will have a chance to win sport’s toughest trophy.
This is why the NHL rocks. Anything can happen. Anything just did.
By beating the Jets 2-1 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, Vegas continued to beat the odds. The Knights were a 500-1 shot last October. The Knights just became the first team to earn a spot in the championship round.
Top that, NBA. Top that, any major U.S. sports league. Talk about a miracle on ice. This championship possibility would be all the rage if the NHL mattered in the U.S. If only Tim Tebow skated. But no matter. This is historic. An expansion team outside of an all-expansion setup making the championship round just doesn’t happen, except in an NHL known for regularly scheduled upsets.
The NHL is the anti-NBA, and thank goodness for that. The NBA is as predictable as it gets. The NBA drags you through seven months that don’t mean anything because it was always going to be Warriors-Rockets and Cavaliers-Celtics, and here we are and there they are. Is that what you want?
I’ll take drama. I’ll take the unexpected. I’ll take the inexplicable and the insane. The cherished randomness of the NHL demands that you watch. Sports charm us with moments we’ve never witnessed. This is that. This one of the big reasons we watch.
Some people, however, believe the Knights are living out one of the more embarrassing stories in sports history because the Knights have made it look easy this season and because their success indicts the NHL’s diluted product borne of a hard salary cap and soft-headed GMs.
If it was that easy to win 51 games, then the Blackhawks would’ve done it. If the league was that diluted, then the Hawks should swap leagues with the Regina Pats. The more you hear people rip the league for such a spectacle, the more you diminish whatever Hawks dynasty talk you spewed.
This isn’t embarrassment. It’s history. Embarrassment is demanding a new owner fork over $500 million and then sticking the new franchise with a last-place team for five years. The NHL didn’t hose the new guy. The reward for the league and the new owner is one of the biggest and best stories in sports history.
The NHL expansion draft rules were more generous than previously seen, but still, other teams were allowed to protect at least eight skaters (including all players with no-movement clauses), all players with less than three years’ pro experience, and their No. 1 goalie. The Knights managed to acquire speed and talent thanks to general manager George McPhee’s deft handling of the expansion draft. And these pieces of ore and other mixed metals were alchemized into Golden Knights by coach Gerard Gallant, who had been fired by the Panthers and so had a lot in common with his players.
The Knights finished fifth in goals per game and eighth in goals-against per game. Their goal differential of plus-44 was sixth-best in the NHL. That’s playing a team game all over the ice, a point underscored when you realize the Knights went through five goalies this season because of injuries, including one netminder they had to recall from juniors.
In winning the Pacific Division with a 51-24-7 record, the Knights finished 29-10-2 at home, the best record in the Western Conference and second-best in the league. It would appear NHL players didn’t know how to act during a night in Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in the loss column. Stick tap for the Knights’ discipline and smarts on and off the ice.
And for everyone who believes they are riding nothing but home-casino advantage, there’s this: In sweeping the Kings in the first round, eliminating the Sharks in six games in the second and wiping out the Jets in five in the conference finals, the Knights clinched all three series on the road. What happens in Vegas also happens everywhere else.
And now the Knights might get their names etched on the venerable Stanley Cup. It sounds crazy, but it’s as real as four more wins.
Such are the extraordinary powers of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury that he didn’t even have to be on the ice to earn an assist.
A scoring review after his spectacular 33-save performance against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday confirmed he deserved the second assist on the empty-net goal by Jonathan Marchessault that gave the Golden Knights the upper hand in the Western Conference final. Fleury was surprised to hear he had gotten the assist. His teammates aren’t surprised by any of his feats. “He does it all,” forward David Perron said.
Fleury, 33, did the Pittsburgh Penguins an enormous favor last season when he accepted their request that he waive his no-move clause so they wouldn’t have to protect him in the expansion draft that stocked Vegas’ roster and could keep younger, salary cap-friendly Matt Murray. The Golden Knights got instant credibility when they claimed Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion. They also got a man who taps his goalposts and thanks them in his native French and in English when they stop pucks, a man who learned to use humor to defuse white-knuckle situations.
“I think that’s the key to making sure you don’t tense up at the wrong moment,” said Perron, who is expected to return Friday after missing two games because of an illness. “You make sure you keep playing your game, and that’s what he does. At the end of the day when he lost to Matt last year because he’s a younger goalie and the salary cap and all that stuff, he wants to prove himself. Every single day he’s out there he’s having fun.”
During the Golden Knights’ unexpected playoff journey, Fleury has joined fans in doing the wave and, on Wednesday, he slyly tickled the ear of Winnipeg forward Blake Wheeler when players began pushing and shoving in front of his goal crease. “I’d be having fun too if I was up 2-1 in the series,” Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry said as the teams prepared for Game 4 on Friday at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights hold that lead because Fleury has backed up his humor with seriously clutch efforts and is 10-3 with a 1.70 goals-against average, .945 save percentage, and a playoff-leading four shutouts. Among his most impressive work were a toe save and a scrambling body block in quick succession against Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele in the third period Wednesday while protecting a one-goal lead. Asked where he ranked those stops among all the timely saves he has made during his career, he grinned in embarrassment.
“I don’t remember all my saves,” he said.
But his teammates will remember those two saves for a while. “I was on the bench. I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe they didn’t score, honestly,” said forward Alex Tuch, who scored Vegas’ third goal, at 8:13 of the second period, on a pass from James Neal. “It was an unbelievable couple of saves there. He kept us in the game the entire time. He was the key to our success.”
Kevin Allen, USA TODAY Sports Published 1:24 p.m. ET May 17, 2018
LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was named a finalist for the NHL’s GM of the year and we don’t need Las Vegas bookmakers to tell us he’s a prohibitive favorite to win the award.
The man has built the best expansion team in professional sports history. The Golden Knights are two wins short of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Final heading into Friday’s Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena (8 p.m, ET, NBC Sports Network). They lead the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in their Western Conference final series.
The always-gracious McPhee will want to thank those who helped him get here, so we’ve tried to be helpful by filling out “Thank You” cards for him:
Dear Marc-Andre Fleury: Many thanks for your decision to waive your no-trade clause with the Pittsburgh Penguins to allow us to select you in the expansion draft. We wouldn’t be where we are without your goaltending and your presence in the dressing room. Your goaltending has been out of this world and your willingness to promote our team and the game in Las Vegas has helped us grow strong roots in the community. People said you were a classy gentleman and the perfect teammate, but you can’t fully appreciate those traits until you see them up close and personal as we have.
Dear Vegas owner Bill Foley: Thanks for everything, especially the “Golden Knights” nickname and for saying we could make the playoffs in three years and win the Stanley Cup in six. We’re not afraid of high expectations in Vegas.
Dear NHL commissioner Gary Bettman: Thanks for signing off on a more generous player dispersal system for the expansion draft. This should be a model for future expansion in all sports. When you see how this has helped establish our team in Las Vegas, you wonder why we were so hard on past expansion teams. When McDonald’s Corporation awards a new franchise, the company doesn’t insist that it launch with inferior items on the menu. Why did sports leagues do that for so many years?
Dear Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon: Should probably send you a box of chocolates along with this ‘”thank you” for the sweet deal you gave us on Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. Landing Marchessault to take Smith’s contract off your hands gave us two-thirds of our top line. Forever grateful.
Dear NFL: Thanks for moving slowly on coming to Las Vegas because we’ve been the first plant our flag and win over this incredibly passionate fan base. It’s laughable now that some people believed pro sports wouldn’t work here. Our fan base is electrifying. If you want to know how to ignite them, we can help.
Dear Florida Panthers: Thanks to whoever made the final decision to fire Gerard “Turk” Gallant as coach. (Dale Tallon didn’t have final say at the time). All that matters is Turk – no one calls him Gerard – was available to be our coach. He’s perfect to lead our band of Golden Misfits. He relates to players and he understands the game at a DNA level.
Dear Expendables: Thanks to all of my players who came in with the attitude that their former teams were wrong to make them available to us. William Karlsson went from six goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets to 43 for us. Erik Haula went from 15 goals for the Minnesota Wild to 29. Nate Schmidt went from third-pairing defenseman in Washington to a top defenseman for us.
Dear former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: Sorry you had so many skilled players on your roster that you couldn’t protect them all. You were in a difficult position that forced you to give us two quality players (Haula and Alex Tuch) to protect players such as Mathew Dumba and Marco Scandella, etc. P.S. We think Tuch is going to be a force for us.