November 11, 2023
KEEPING IT GOING
AVONDALE, Ariz. — The Blaney name has long been renowned in motorsports throughout the Midwest, where the Ohio-based family won in sprint cars, won on dirt tracks and racked up championships for three generations. It began with George Blaney, a lumber operator who also owned a race team. His son, Lou, won 600 sprint feature races, drove for his father's three-car team, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, and owned and operated Sharon Speedway in Hartford, just shy of the Pennsylvania state line. Lou had two sons, Dave and Dale. Both wanted to be racers, although Dale played basketball at West Virginia and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1986. He quit before the season to focus on driving cars, and both of Lou's sons won titles at the grassroots racing level. Dave then made his way to NASCAR for 473 Cup Series starts over 17 seasons. He was a journeyman — his 2006 victory in the Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was the only win of his career across all three NASCAR national series — but he was his son's hero. Ryan Blaney wanted to be just like his dad. He wanted to be the Blaney to give the family a championship on asphalt. When he finally did it Sunday at Phoenix Raceway his hero was there to celebrate with him. "He's been not only someone I grew up wanting to be like and wanting to do his sport, obviously getting me started in racing, supported me along the way, opened a lot of doors for me," Blaney said Sunday night as his father sat in the back of the media room at Phoenix watching his son with beaming pride. "For him to still be supportive when I'm an adult is great. His whole thing through the playoffs was, 'I see the path, I can see the path to the championship, I can see it,'" he continued. "After we won Martinsville, he's like, 'It's lit up now, the path is lit up.' I think we drove through the gate (now). So we have arrived." Not too bad for a guy who in March of this year was blasted by former driver and current NBC analyst Kyle Petty — himself a multi-generational racer — who called Blaney "the new Kasey Kahne. Potential unfulfilled. Everybody wants to talk about what he can do, but he never does anything." At the time, Blaney had seven career Cup Series wins over seven seasons and was coming off a winless 2022. The comments stung Blaney, who knew he had fallen short of the expectations he had for himself and those that Team Penske had in the 29-year-old. His losing streak stretched 59 races — nearly two full years — before he tearfully snapped it in May with a confidence-resetting win in the Coca-Cola 600. It was validation of the internal work he was doing. In his second season with crew chief Jonathan Hassler, the pairing examined the hurdles for Blaney — and how to get over them. "It was something we talked about a lot between me and Jonathan, and internally with myself. It's not fun pointing out things that you do poorly, right? It's not pointing out flaws about yourself, but it's important to do to try to work on," Blaney said. "Like, 'You're bad here, you do a terrible Job at this.' It's hard admitting yourself to those things internally. If they're holding you back, you have to address those problems." His realization that he needed to be better finally came. "You have to be smarter during races," he recalled. "You have got to think about the bigger picture. It's not only about being fast, you have to evolve yourself to be a more wellrounded racer. It was a lot of conversations with myself internally." The work paid off in this three-win season, especially when he turned it up in the playoffs. Over the final six weeks, Blaney racked up two wins, two runner-ups and didn't finish lower than 12th. The effort gave Roger Penske consecutive Cup Series titles for the first time in his NASCAR career following Joey Logano's win last year. Blaney's first career title was the fourth Cup championship for Team Penske and 44th overall for the storied organization. It also gave Ford the first threerace sweep of NASCAR's championship weekend since 2001. Blaney is now NASCAR's first Ohioborn champion and a star in the making. Soft-spoken and mild-mannered off the track, he showed at Phoenix he is unafraid to mix it up. He could have cost himself the title when he deliberately ran into the back of race-winner Ross Chastain because he was mad at how hard Chastain was racing him. He drives pickup trucks, lives in a rural area of North Carolina, wears flannel and grew a playoff beard that Penske driver and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden said made Blaney look "like an 1800's U.S. president. I can't look away. It's magical, it's so not Penske." Penske wants the beard to go, and Blaney said after the race he will shave it before next season. But he's as blue collar as they come and as relatable to a diehard NASCAR fan as the late Dale Earnhardt. "I think his limits are the sky," said Penske, who likened him to four-time Indy 500 winner and Penske stalwart Rick Mears. "He's a soft-spoken guy, really, but when he gets behind the wheel, like Joey, when he puts his hat on, don't get in his way. He's only getting better and better. He's got the confidence. He's a leader. He's a winner and a champion. He's got a long way to go, a long way."
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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