The Washington Post Sunday

Palou, near points lead, earns pole at Portland

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Alex Palou earned the first pole of his IndyCar career and put himself in position to reclaim the championsh­ip lead Sunday at Portland Internatio­nal Raceway in Oregon.

Palou turned a top lap of 58.7701 seconds in Saturday qualifying on the 1.964-mile, 12turn permanent road course built in 1960. The Spaniard had only been to the Portland track once before — the race was canceled last season during pandemic rescheduli­ng — for a test session last month.

But he said he immediatel­y loved the track and spent IndyCar’s two-week break heading into Portland on the simulator preparing for this pivotal title race.

“We’ve been working hard, trying to make this happen,” Palou said after his qualifying lap. “We’ve been super competitiv­e in qualifying this year, but we never got that last lap time that we needed for a pole and got it here and am just super happy to tick that box off.”

More important, Palou’s top competitio­n for the title will all start behind him Sunday. Palou earned one point for winning the pole, and it cut his deficit to Pato O’Ward to just nine points ahead of the 110-lap race . . . .

Valtteri Bottas continued a fantastic weekend as he won the sprint at the Italian Grand Prix on a miserable afternoon for Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who saw title rival Max Verstappen take the pole position and extend his lead in the standings.

“It’s not the outcome we wanted for today, and we can’t afford days like these, especially when it is this close in the championsh­ips,” Hamilton said.

Bottas finished the 18-lap dash in Monza, Italy, 2.325 seconds ahead of Verstappen but will start at the back of the grid Sunday as he is going to take a new power unit and will receive a penalty for doing so.

Daniel Ricciardo will start on the front row with Verstappen. The McLaren driver finished 14.534 behind Bottas, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season for Alfa Romeo.

Hamilton finished in fifth, more than 20 seconds behind his teammate after a woeful start.

Verstappen extended his lead in the championsh­ip to five points after earning two points for finishing second.

GOLF

Ken Tanigawa had two frontnine eagles in a 6-under-par 65 for a share of the second-round lead with Doug Barron in the PGA Tour Champions’ inaugural Ascension Charity Classic.

Tanigawa eagled the par-5 second and eighth holes in a front-nine 30 on Norwood Hills’ West Course, the tree-lined layout where Ben Hogan won the 1948 PGA Championsh­ip for his second major title.

Barron also eagled the eighth and closed with a birdie for a 68 to match Tanigawa at 8-under 134.

The 53-year-old Tanigawa has two senior titles, the last in 2019 in the Senior PGA Championsh­ip. The 52-year-old Barron also has two Champions victories.

Rod Pampling (66) and Alex Cejka (67) were a stroke back . . . .

In Virginia Water, England, Francesco Laporta of Italy shot a 3-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the BMW PGA Championsh­ip as Bernd Wiesberger of Austria moved closer to sealing a place on Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

Nineteen players were within five shots of the 264th-ranked Laporta, who was 14 under overall, heading into the final round of the flagship event on the European Tour. The closest was English player Laurie Canter, who shot 70 and was a stroke behind in second place outright.

Ryder Cup qualificat­ion is the major subplot of this week’s tournament at the tour headquarte­rs at Wentworth, which marks the final chance for players to earn points to gain an automatic place on the European team.

Wiesberger looks almost sure of getting in via the European points list after shooting a second straight round of 67 to climb into a tie for seventh place on 11 under. The Austrian golfer, who has never played in the Ryder Cup, needs to finish only in the top 50 to jump above Rory McIlroy on the list.

McIlroy would still be assured of making the team via the world points list.

MISC.

Marina Mabrey scored 21 points and Allisha Gray had 13 points, 11 rebounds and a gamesealin­g block as the Dallas Wings beat the New York Liberty, 77-76, in Arlington, Tex., to clinch a WNBA playoff spot.

Dallas (13-17) sits in seventh, while New York (11-19) trails the Washington Mystics by a halfgame for the final playoff spot . . . .

The top ice hockey official in Belarus stepped down after he was banned for five years for threatenin­g players over their political beliefs.

The Belarus hockey federation had initially signaled Dmitri Baskov could stay on as president in defiance of Wednesday’s ban, but he told state TV he was stepping aside to avoid possible further sanctions against the federation if he stayed.

The Internatio­nal Ice Hockey Federation ruled Baskov “abused his position” by trying to influence others to back authoritar­ian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Its investigat­ion found evidence he “threatened and discrimina­ted Belarusian athletes because of their political opinion.”

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