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San Diego Comic-Con is known for being a showplace for outrageous costumes, but the world’s largest pop culture event requires all cosplayers to get their mock weaponry inspected prior to entering the convention floor.

Costumed cosplayers armed with make-believe weapons must check in at a costume prop desk upon arrival at San Diego Comic-Con.

Comic-Con is serious about its weapons checks. Projectile weapons — such as a bow and arrow — must be rendered inoperable. Real arrows must have their tips removed and be zip-tied into a quiver. Costume swords must be tethered to the costume so that they can’t be drawn.

Only active, on-duty police officers can carry firearms at Comic-Con.

  • Sarah McIntosh with permitted bow and arrow. (Brady MacDonald)

  • A coat check employee with checked weapons.. (Brady MacDonald)

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  • Megan Morris with her prohibited katana. (Brady MacDonald)

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Because this is Comic-Con, though, there are always new questions: Who knew a pink tennis racquet could be a weapon? Or zombie Freddie Mercury’s Killer Queen microphone stand could be one? Even Wonder Woman needs to get her magic lasso tagged at the prop weapons check station at Comic-Con.

On the flip side, a Deadpool cosplayer can walk around Comic-Con with two prop guns, two prop ninja swords and a prop knife — after they pass inspection.

Metal barbed wire, swords, knives, throwing stars and claws are not permitted at Comic-Con. Baseball bats — wooden or metal — are prohibited, too. Lightsabers, staffs and canes are OK. Realistic prop guns and costume swords must be tethered to a costume. Costume guns that look like they are from another universe can be carried by cosplayers.

The seasoned Comic-Con attendees come to the pop culture convention with their prop handguns, swords and other weapons already zip-tied to their cos-play costumes.

Prop weapons that don’t pass inspection can be stowed at coat check or taken back to a car or hotel room.

Eamon Sheehy came to Comic-Con dressed as Dread Pirate Roberts from “The Princess Bride” with a 3-foot-long metal sword at his waist that didn’t pass muster this year.

“I’ve actually carried this for several years at Comic-Con and they’ve been fine with it,” said Sheehy, 27, of Irvine. “Every year the rules get tighter.”

Megan Morris bought a wooden samurai katana at Comic-Con on Thursday to use with her Kill Bill costume. But she only got to carry it around the convention floor for a couple hours before being flagged by security for a prop weapons inspection.

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“Because it’s wooden, they consider it a baseball bat,” said Morris, 33, of Bakersfield.

Sarah McIntosh made sure her arrows were glued into her quiver and her bow strings lacked tension for her Artemis Crock cosplay costume.

“I was super afraid so I did everything possible to get through,” said McIntosh, 33, of Chicago.

McIntosh’s bow and arrow passed inspection and her costume was complete as she happily headed for the Comic-Con convention floor.

READ MORE about SDCC 2019:

 

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LOS ALAMITOS LEADERS

Final standings

JOCKEYS / WINS

Jorge Velez / 9

Geovanni Franco / 7

J.C. Diaz, Jr. / 6

Four tied / 5

TRAINERS / WINS

Peter Miller / 5

Bob Baffert / 4

Five tied / 3

WEEKEND STAKES SCHEDULE (DEL MAR)

Saturday

• $200,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap, 3-year-olds and up, 1-1/16 miles

• $200,000 Grade II San Clemente Stakes, 3-year-old fillies, 1 mile (turf)

Sunday

• $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, 1-1/8 miles (turf)

DOWN THE STRETCH

• Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified and placed 17th for interference, heads a seven-horse field in Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Maximum Security, who will be ridden again by Luis Saez, was installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite on the heels of a disappointing runner-up effort behind King for a Day as the 1-20 favorite in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth on June 16. Trainer Bob Baffert will be aiming for a record ninth Haskell victory when he sends out Affirmed Stakes winner Mucho Gusto in the 1-1/8-mile race. Joe Talamo will ride.

• Catalina Cruiser, fresh off a victory in the True North at Belmont Park on June 8, heads a short field of six in Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. Catalina Cruiser, who won the San Diego and Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar last summer before finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs, has won five of six lifetime and is expected to be a heavy favorite when he loads into the starting gate for the 1-1/16-mile race with Joel Rosario aboard. Owned by Hronis Racing and trained by John Sadler, Catalina Cruiser is a 5-year-old son of Union Rags.

• Sadler is not happy that his friend and fellow trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is not allowed to train or race at Del Mar. “There’s a big sadness for me coming here this year with what happened to Hollendorfer,” Sadler, former president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, told Del Mar publicity. “He’s been my friend and neighbor at the end of the stalls for quite a few years here, so it’s a little depressing.” He expounded even more after his victory with Jasikan in the Oceanside Stakes on opening day at Del Mar, telling reporters he feels Hollendorfer has been “scapegoated” after all that has transpired this year.

— Art Wilson

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The hits just keep coming. It seems the racing world can’t even stop for a minute to celebrate what was a positive opening day of racing at Del Mar on Wednesday without tragedy striking again.

On Thursday morning, about 6:40, a horrific head-on collision during morning training hours at Del Mar resulted in the death of two unraced horses and what luckily turned out to be only minor injuries to jockey Assael Espinoza.

Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach, is a veteran of the sport and says he’s never seen anything like the year horse racing has experienced in 2019.

“Never, not as far as horse racing taking all these punches to the gut,” he said. “It’s just been unbelievable.It’s just all kinds of like a flood of bad news on a daily basis.”

First, 30 horses die during Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet, and now two more fatalities as the result of a freakish accident, which was first reported by the Daily Racing Form.

It involved three horses, two trained by Bob Baffert and one by John Sadler, that were working in company from the starting gate and approaching the 6-furlong pole when a horse trained by Carla Gaines threw its rider, Geovanni Franco, and began running the wrong way.

The loose horse, a 2-year-old colt named Charge a Bunch, collided head on with Baffert’s Carson Valley, ridden by Espinoza and working in the middle of the three horses. Charge a Bunch and Carson Valley died from the impact of the collision.

Espinoza, nephew of Hall of Fame rider Victor Espinoza, was transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, complaining of lower back pain. Beach, who also represents Victor Espinoza, said doctors took a CT scan that showed no broken bones.

Franco did not require medical attention.

“I didn’t see it (accident), but everybody that did said it was pretty horrific,” Beach said. “We got lucky with Asa. He’s just bruised and sore. He landed on his tailbone, so his tailbone was sore in his lower back area.

“He’s going to be stiff and sore, so we’re just going to take it day by day.”

Beach said he expects Espinoza to return to riding no later than this weekend.

The injury scare comes eerily close to the one-year anniversary of Victor Espinoza’s training accident at Del Mar when a horse he was aboard for a workout collapsed and died of a heart attack July 22, tossing the 47-year-old to the ground and resulting in a broken neck. After many months of intense rehabilitation, he returned to riding at Santa Anita on Feb. 18.

Beach said Victor Espinoza was also working a horse on the track during Thursday’s accident.

“So he narrowly escaped being in the accident himself,” Beach said.

Gaines issued a statement via her Twitter account: “This morning Gaines Racing had a very unfortunate and freak training accident at Del Mar, the likes of which I have not experienced in over 30 years training race horses. We are so thankful to report that Asa Espinoza and Geovanni Franco have no major injuries. Our whole barn is still in shock and grieving the loss of the horses, and my heart goes out to both of their owners, Bob and his team. We appreciate all those that continue to support us and our industry.”

Said Baffert in a statement to Del Mar publicity: “This was a very unfortunate accident and is a shock to everyone in the barn. We work every day to take the best care of our horses but sometimes freak accidents occur that are beyond anyone’s control. This is one of those times and we’re deeply saddened for all involved.”

Hollendorfer update

San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald F. Frazier delayed a decision Thursday morning on trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s request for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed him to stable and train horses at Del Mar.

Hollendorfer’s suit against Del Mar and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, on whose land the track sits, includes him and the California Thoroughbred Trainers as plaintiffs.

“The judge said he was going to deny it today,” said Hollendorfer’s lawyer, Drew Couto. “He said the only reason he was denying it was that he hadn’t had enough time to review everything and didn’t want to make a hasty decision.

“He wants us back on July 26 at 11:30 a.m. and go over it at that time.”

Couto said the judge “said it was a very substantive matter and he wants to get it right.”

Hollendorfer was informed by Del Mar earlier this month he would not be allowed at the seaside track after The Stronach Group banned him from any of their five tracks June 23. The New York Racing Association, after initially welcoming Hollendorfer to any of its tracks, reversed course and said in a statement June 29 he would not be allowed to race or stable in the state.

Couto said his client seems to be holding up well during the ordeal.

“As anyone might imagine, it takes a toll,” he said. “But Jerry’s a tough guy. He hasn’t said to me, ‘Oh, I’m feeling bad,’ or anything, but I just suspect that it takes a toll.”

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

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The Clippers made it official Thursday, announcing the re-signing of 29-year-old forward JaMychal Green.

He was set to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with a player option on the second season, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, declining more money elsewhere to remain with the Clippers, who have been tabbed by oddsmakers as the favorite to win next season’s NBA title after signing free agent Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George.

The Clippers also announced Thursday that they plan to hold a news conference Wednesday in South L.A. to introduce their new superstar pairing, and that they’ll hold the event on one of the 350 recently renovated Clippers Community Courts throughout the city that have been improved with funding from the team and in coordination with the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Clippers welcomed Green to L.A. last February after trading for him in a deadline deal that also brought Garrett Temple to L.A. in exchange for guard Avery Bradley, who this season will play with the Lakers.

Coach Doc Rivers said last season that Green was better than he’d expected, adding grit to an already tough lineup and helping to spread the floor with his 3-point shooting ability.

The 6-foot-9 Green will give the Clippers another versatile option on the wing in support of Leonard and George, along with Moe Harkless, Rodney McGruder and Terrance Mann.

In 24 regular-season appearances for the Clippers, Green averaged 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from 3-point range.

In six playoff games, he was even more productive: He averaged 11 points and shot 53.5 from the floor and 52.2 percent from beyond the arc against the Golden State Warriors.

Undrafted out of Alabama, Green is entering his sixth NBA season. For his career, he’s averaged 8.4 points on 48.3 percent shooting, to go with 6.1 rebounds per game.

𝐑𝐮𝐧 𝐈𝐭 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤

Welcome back, @Jmyke1! pic.twitter.com/v6UyVKtaH2

— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) July 18, 2019

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If you were alive a half-century ago, you remember the moon landing.

But let’s agree you don’t remember it quite like the men and women who actually watched their work land on a sphere a quarter-million miles away.

Along with 425,000 of his closest colleagues, Stan Barauskas was one of those people.

  • Stan Barauskas of Diamond Bar holds a model of the lunar lander at his home. Barauskas designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Stan Barauskas of Diamond Bar holds a Apollo 11 medallion he received for his work on the space program, at his home. Barauskas designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Stan Barauskas of Diamond Bar sits surrounded by space memorabilia in the office at his home. Barauskas designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A scrapbook lays on a table in the living room of Stan Barauskas’ home Diamond Bar. Barauskas designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Stan Barauskas, left, of Diamond Bar is awarded the Astronaut Outstanding Achievement Silver Snoopy Award by NASA Astronaut Richard Truly in 1976. (Courtesy Stan Barauskas)

  • Stan Barauskas of Diamond Bar holds two of the Astronaut Outstanding Achievement Silver Snoopy Awards for his work on design and building the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June11, 2019. It was first presented to Barauskas by NASA Astronauts Tom Stafford and Richard Truly in 1976. The second one was presented by NASA Astronaut Mark Lee in 1992. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Stan Barauskas, left, of Diamond Bar is awarded the Astronaut Outstanding Achievement Silver Snoopy Award by NASA Astronaut Mark Lee in 1992. (Courtesy Stan Barauskas)

  • Stan Barauskas of Diamond Bar designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A coffee mug sits on the kitchen table in the home of Stan Barauskas in Diamond Bar. Barauskas designed and built the small rocket engines and power systems on the Apollo command capsule as well the lunar lander and Space Shuttle while working as an engineer at Rockwell and Boeing in Southern California, on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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With his wife, Elke, by his side and eating dinner on TV trays, Barauskas was on edge as the Lunar Lander was forced to maneuver away from a boulder field by firing — what else? — the engineer’s very own rockets.

Yet in many respects, it was the years before as well as the decades after July 20, 1969, that left a legacy of tenacity, dedication and esprit de corps in Southern California.

If you don’t recall, the spaceship may have lifted off from Florida, but it was in Downey, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Van Nuys where President John Kennedy’s promise of landing a man on the moon stopped being a dream and became reality.

In those days, Barauskas worked in North American Aviation’s (later changed to Rockwell and then Boeing) huge buildings in Downey, home to where much of the service module’s hardware, as well as the Apollo command capsule, was born.

“It was a profound accomplishment,” recalls Barauskas, now 80. “We were one huge family and we shared that excitement among all the people involved.”

Still, when the proposal was first launched, Barauskas and others admit it sounded, well, kind of nuts.

“Everybody thought that was pie in the sky,” the engineer acknowledges of those early days. “Who ever heard of such a thing as someone walking on the moon?”

But soon, the fantasy turned into what Barauskas modestly calls, “Quite an assignment.”

Consider that the Downey facility was home to 25,000 workers.

And that was just for the top of the rocket ship.

North American workers built the huge second stage of the Saturn V rocket in Seal Beach, McDonnell Douglas employees constructed the third stage in Huntington Beach and in Van Nuys, Marquardt Corporation built 100-pound engines for the trip to the moon.

In the race for space, Southern California was starship central.

Working together

Barauskas’ first memory is fleeing Lithuania during World War II with his big sister and parents in a horse-drawn covered cart. Eventually, the family found refuge hiding out in — of all places — a German farm.

By 1961, however, Barauskas had graduated from the then-Newark College of Engineering.

With images of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite dancing in his head, he hoped for a job with the fledgling government organization known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, soon to be known as NASA.

NASA wasn’t in the cards for Barauskas, however, and he soon landed a job with General Dynamics. He quickly moved his way up while traveling to far-flung places such as Cheyenne, Wy., to beef up Atlas rocket systems, carriers of intercontinental nuclear missiles.

But when Kennedy announced his plan to land a man on the moon before the decade was over, Barauskas knew he simply had to find a job in the effort to reach the moon.

Surrounded by space memorabilia and family photos in his Diamond Bar home, Barauskas smiles. “I wanted to be a part of that, definitely,” he emphasizes. “I was nervous when I applied.”

He needn’t have worried. Soon, Barauskas was walking to work in Downey and living his dream.

“Everybody was excited,” the engineer remembers. “People didn’t mind working extra hours, Saturdays, Sundays. We knew it was the national goal.”

Barauskas’ longest shift? Thirty-two straight hours.

As the months slipped into years, anticipation, anxiety — and excitement — only increased.

“The more milestones we passed,” he shares, “the more we were looking forward to completing the project.

“Never before in the history of mankind could we sample material from the moon to help discover the origins of Earth.

“The experience was amazing.”

Launch date

As deadline approached for the moon shot, in the back of many minds there remained the tragic launch pad fire that in 1967 took the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

(The three are honored locally with the names of three oil islands off Long Beach.)

Finally, on July 16, 1969, Barauskas and several thousand colleagues gathered around televisions in the cavernous North American building in Downey, and watched as Apollo 11 shook, rattled and rumbled on its launch pad.

The minutes ticked off: “T-minus 15 seconds and counting.”

At exactly 12:32 p.m., Mission Control announced the golden words, “Liftoff, we have liftoff.”

The crowd in Downey went crazy, like nothing Barauskas had ever seen – and he’d seen the end of World War II in Germany.

People cheered, screamed, hugged.

The trip to the moon was expected to be uneventful and it was. But the closer the command module got to the moon, the more emotions heated up.

After all, no one had ever tried landing on the moon.

In a you-couldn’t-make-this-up coincidence, the lunar landing was scheduled on Elke’s 25th birthday and a neighbor invited the couple over for a steak barbecue.

Still astonished that they could watch the landing, let alone in real time, the group gathered in front of the television — as did most people on the planet who had access to TV.

Monitoring the broadcast, Barauskas watched and listened to reports as the 5.4-pound rockets he helped design and build for the command module allowed the craft to fly toward the designated area.

But would his similar rockets on the lunar module named Eagle do the job?

In space, he knew, there is no room for the tiniest error.

He also knew that in making the directional rockets, the team had to shave every gram possible, miniaturize the rockets to the size of footballs and still make them sturdy enough to withstand violent shaking and temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slowly, painstakingly, Barauskas watched Eagle creep above the boulder field and begin its final descent.

All systems go, the engineer breathed.

Mission Control voices crackled, altitude 4,000 feet, 3,000 feet, 200 feet, 75 feet. Then words from the moon: “The Eagle has landed.”

Satisfied, the engineer grinned. He was confident the astronauts would be fine. Still, the return home remained.

After leaving the moon’s surface, his rockets needed to fire at the exact moment with just the right thrust to perform the near impossible — linking up the spinning Columbia and Eagle in the void of space.

Soon, though, that feat, too, was complete. The Eagle was cut adrift and Columbia and crew returned to Earth.

Golden age

For many men and women in the space program, the moon landing was only the first chapter.

A series of Apollo landings followed and then it was time to start building the Space Shuttles — and maintaining the shuttles.

Playing a key role in building the system to power the hydraulics for the Space Shuttle, Barauskas proudly points out just a few of the things that grew out of NASA’s efforts: smaller, faster computers; lighter, stronger materials; medical devices that monitor body functions.

Like many of his former colleagues, the engineer retired several years ago from the Boeing facility in Huntington Beach.

Yet the dream still shines.

On most nights, Barauskas and company can look up any time they want and see the silver moon, confirmation of an epic journey during an epic time only made possible by a nation coming together.

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The first two new Toys R Us stores — one in Texas, the other in New Jersey — will open in November as part of a small comeback of the defunct iconic toy chain in the U.S.

Richard Barry, a former Toys R Us executive and now CEO of the new company called Tru Kids Brands, says an online experience will follow. He says brand partners and more details will be announced in coming weeks.

Tru Kids Brands said it has entered a partnership with a startup called b8ta, an experiential retailer to launch what Barry calls an interactive store experience based on a consignment model. Toymakers will pay for space in the stores but will get all the sales. The tech company will also offer brands access to data that will track traffic patterns and other metrics.

Plans are to open a Toys R Us store in The Galleria mall in Houston, and in Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The first two locations will be about 6,500 square feet — a fraction of the brand’s former big box stores. Barry noted stores opening later will be about 10,000 square feet.

Isaac Larian, CEO of privately held MGA Entertainment, the maker of the highly popular L.O.L. Surprise toys, said there’s a need for another independent toy chain, but he decided not to be a brand partner because he believes the consignment model is too risky for suppliers, particularly with the issue of returns. He says his factors, which make cash advances to suppliers based on the goods they sell to the merchant, also wouldn’t approve it.

“I like the interactive concept, but I just don’t think the consignment model is going to work,” said Larian, who along with several other investors, abandoned a bid last year to buy Toys R Us.

US stock indexes shake off an early loss and close higher

U.S. stocks reversed course from an early slump and closed higher Thursday to break a two-day losing streak after technology and bank stocks rallied.

The S&P 500 index rose 10.69 points, or 0.4%, to 2,995.11. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 3.12 points to 27,222.97. It was down as much as 151 points earlier. The Nasdaq composite rose 22.04 points, or 0.3%, to 8,207.24.

IBM rose 4.6% after reporting solid results. The company, along with Apple, helped lift the technology sector to lead the broader gains.

Banks led financial stocks higher. BB&T rose 2.8% and SunTrust Banks rose 2.7%. Both reported earnings that easily beat analysts’ estimates.

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.48 to settle at $55.30 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell $1.73 to close at $61.93 a barrel.

 Newspaper chains Gannett, GateHouse in merger talks

Two of the country’s largest newspaper companies are in “advanced talks” to combine.

That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report that cites unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The Journal says that Gannett Co., the owner of USA Today, and GateHouse Media, the owner of the Austin American-Statesman, Palm Beach Post and many papers in small- and mid-sized towns, are nearing a deal that would have GateHouse or its parent buy Gannett.

New Media Investment Group, itself a unit of private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, owns GateHouse. Fortress’ owner is Japanese tech giant SoftBank, which also owns U.S. wireless carrier Sprint.

GateHouse, New Media and Fortress did not immediately reply to messages. Gannett declined to comment.

Newspapers have been combining to weather the decline in print ad sales.

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In northern Kentucky last week, Sparta to be specific, Southern California was in the NASCAR spotlight. Actually, counting Kurt Busch’s Cup victory, it was the Southwest.

First it was Tyler Ankrum, a San Bernardino native, taking the Truck Series checkered flag in just his 12th start in the series. Ankrum was driving a Toyota for David Gilliland, the former Chino Hills resident.

“I can’t thank everyone at DGR-Crosley enough,” Ankrum said after his seven-second win over Stewart Frieson. “I can’t believe we just did this, it’s incredible. This is a dream come true. I have always doubted myself, and I think (the win) will wash all that away.

“This is incredible. It’s going to take a lot more work to chase a championship, but we are one step closer.”

Ankrum’s crew was on the radio, filling him on what was happening on the track.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even really listening. I was just driving my rear-end off,” Ankrum said. “Holy cow. I think I held my breath through the last three laps there. I’m tired. I think I honestly forgot to breathe. Holy cow.”

Ankrum, who moved back to North Carolina with his mother in 2014, is 17th in the standings. He trails Grant Enfinger by 284 points, but has qualified for the playoffs.

The next night on the 1.5-mile track, Cole Custer’s race was as different as day and night. Once the sun set, his Ford took off.

Custer won for the third time in the past six Xfinity Series race. It was the seventh career series win, in 88 starts, for the Ladera Ranch Ford driver who also won at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season.

It was Custer’s second consecutive win on a 1.5-mile track following his win at Chicago earlier in the month. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was dominant, leading the final 45 laps and beating Christopher Bell by 1.651 seconds.

“This one just goes to my team,” Custer said afterward. “That car was just unbelievable at the end. They knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed, and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”

His closest call of the night came after the race, as he nearly face-planted in the victory circle celebration.

“I don’t look too good after falling off the car like that, but that was unbelievable,” he said.

As for Busch, the Las Vegas native extended his streak to six years with at least one Cup victory by prevailing at Kentucky. It was his 31st career win and first since Aug. 18, 2018, at Bristol.

McCray returns

Toni McCray, the Highland driver who has been the most successful female at Irwindale Speedway, will debut a Super Late Model in the SRL Tour at the half-mile track Saturday night. Gates will open at 4 p.m., with autographs at 5:45 and racing at 7.

Acting on a tip by Lenny White, McCray purchased the car driven by Jeremy Doss.

“I have big shoes to fill with this car,” said McCray, who won 15 times at Irwindale. “I’m excited about racing it, and the biggest thing will be getting me comfortable in the seat. I hadn’t raced that much over the last two years, but this year we have been running Orange Show and having lots of fun with that. I’m really looking forward to going back to Irwindale, where I have had a lot of success as well.”

McCray will be making her eighth series start since 2014, when she finished third. She has collected 15 wins at Irwindale, finishing second in Super Late Model in 2013 and runner-up in LateMode in 2014-15.

“The SRL series is one of the toughest most competitive series there is, and it has an abundance of talented drivers”, McCray said. “I know it will absolutely be the toughest race I have ran this year, but I like the challenge. My goals for the weekend would be to qualify in the top-10 and finish top-10, but top-5 would be like a win to me.”

Back on track

After missing a NHRA national event in New England, Top Fuel dragster racer Leah Pritchett will be back in the field this weekend in Denver. The Redlands driver is the defending champion as the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series opens its annual three-race swing in the West.

Steve Torrence leads the Top Fuel field by a wide margin. The defending series champion is 479 points ahead of Doug Kalitta in second. Pritchett is seventh, 627 behind the leader, but trails Clay Millican by 31 markers for sixth.

“I don’t think there is another human that can parallel how I feel about getting back in the car at Denver right now, or getting the team back on the track,” Pritchett said. “I’m beyond motivated. It doesn’t take missing a race, or Denver being the mother flagship event (sponsored by Dodge) to get my motor running, but it most definitely has kicked it into overdrive

“It will have been 25 days since being behind the wheel of a nitro car, or since my team has been in race pace, but I can promise, everyone is as prepared as ever to defend what I consider a U.S. Nationals-caliber event.”

All four professional categories will compete at the event, held 5,800 feet above sea level. Robert Hight has a 176-point lead over team boss John Force; Bo Butner leads Alex Laughlin by 148 in Pro Stock; and Andrew Hines is atop Pro Stock Motorcycles by 86 over Eddie Krawiec.

Pit stops

— Ventura Raceway will hold its annual A J Herrera Memorial on Saturday for the fifth time, featuring flat track motorcycles, Vintage Speedway and sidecars. Flat Track Racers will compete in classes ranging from kids 50cc to pro riders going for an added purse in pro singles and Twins. Last week, Tommy Velasquez III won the VRA Pro Dwarf feature, although Jason Horton leads Trent Morley by 85 points after 10 races. In VRA Hobby Stocks, leader Tom Stephens Jr. took the win and increased his points lead to 155. Troy Rutherford won the Sprint Car feature and increased his lead. Donald Houghton took the IMCA Modifieds feature over Terry Hershberger, now three points behind Jack Parker.

— Saturday’s night card at Perris Auto Speedway will feature the PASSCAR Stock Car Series, with Street Stocks, Super Stocks, American Factory Stocks and the IMCA Modifieds. At intermission, kids in the grandstands will be let onto the front straightaway of the track to collect candy from all the drivers. Bradley Morris holds an eight-point lead on Joey Haresky in the Modifieds. In PASSCAR Street Stock class. Blaine Whitson and teenager Alyssa Smith are ahead of Luke Dodd, who has won the past three titles. In Super Stocks, eight points separate Fred Estrada, Tyson Talkington and Rickey Lee. Darren Myers is in first in Factory Stocks, ahead of Cameron Veatch, Mike Burks and Jason

— Brody Roa, crew chief Zac Bozanich and Joe Gibb are driving the race hauler back to the Midwest to compete with the USAC National Sprint Car Series for nine races on nine tracks in 11 nights. The action begins Wednesday at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, followed by the start of “Indiana Sprint Week.” Roa is now second in the USAC/CRA Series after dropping out Saturday due to mechanical issues. Race winner Damion Gardner moved into first by 49 points, but Roa maintained his lead in the Southwest Series by nine points.

— Ryan Vargas, the 18-year-old La Mirada native, will make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Iowa Speedway. Vargas competed in the K&N Pro Series East for Rev Racing in 2017, finishing sixth in the standings. He was a member of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next classes.

— Auto Club Speedway will host the Monster Energy DUB Show Tour from 5-11 p.m. Saturday, which will feature a special drifting exhibition. The show will showcase celebrity vehicles, custom cars, bikes, trucks, Jeeps, shops and car clubs, competing for cash awards. “There is a huge car culture here in Southern California and we are thrilled to be a part of the Dub Show Tour,” track president Dave Allen said. “We have the space for their massive displays, incredible rides, new exhibitions and experiences.”

Louis Brewster can be reached at BrewSpts@gmail.com.

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It took the better part of two days, but Canister No. 30 — a 50-ton behemoth full of spent nuclear waste — was successfully moved from a fuel-handling building, rolled across the bluff on a giant transporter, then inserted into its steel-and-concrete vault in the Holtec Hi-Storm UMAX dry storage system at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

  • As a stand-up paddle boarder surfs a wave, workers at San Onofre’s dry fuel storage facility ready a newly placed canister for its 35,000 pound closure lid. The canister is placed inside the yellow shield cask as it is moved from the fuel handling building to the storage facility. Once in position, the canister is lowered 20 feet into a steel enclosure surrounded by concrete. There will be 123 canisters of spent fuel stored at San Onofre. The process should be completed by next spring.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Workers at San Onofre’s dry fuel storage facility ready a newly placed canister for its 35,000 pound closure lid. The canister is placed inside the yellow shield cask as it is moved from the fuel handling building to the storage facility. Once in position, the canister is lowered 20 feet into a steel enclosure surrounded by concrete. There will be 123 canisters of spent fuel stored at San Onofre. The process should be completed by next spring.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A worker at San Onofre’s independent spent fuel storage facility removes rigging after successfully downloading a canister 20 feet into a steel enclosure surrounded by concrete. There will be 123 canisters of spent fuel stored at San Onofre. The process should be completed by next spring. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Workers at San Onofre’s dry fuel storage facility ready a newly placed canister for its 35,000-pound closure lid. The canister is placed inside the yellow shield cask as it is moved from the fuel handling building to the storage facility. Once in position, the canister is lowered 20 feet into a steel enclosure surrounded by concrete. There will be 123 canisters of spent fuel stored at San Onofre. The process should be completed by next spring.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A worker at San Onofre’s independent spent fuel storage facility removes rigging after successfully downloading a canister 20 feet into a steel enclosure surrounded by concrete. There will be 123 canisters of spent fuel stored at San Onofre. The process should be completed by next spring. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Southern California Edison’s Media Relations Manager, John Dobken, shows simulated nuclear fuel pellets like the ones stored inside canisterÕs at San Onofre’s dry fuel storage facility. Holtec canisters contain three million spent fuel pellets. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The delicate, deliberate dance was originally projected to wrap up by early morning Wednesday, July 17, but finished up about 6 a.m. Thursday. And as far as majority owner and operator Southern California Edison is concerned, that’s just fine and dandy.

“I talk about taking a very careful approach and our workers did exactly that — they worked in a slow, safe, methodical manner, and in a couple of places where they questioned things, we stopped the work and made sure their questions were answered,” said Doug Bauder, vice president of decommissioning and chief nuclear officer at San Onofre.

For example, the crane in Unit 3, where Canister No. 30 has been loaded and waiting for its Holtec home for nearly a year, needed an adjustment. That work was finished, the canister was lowered and loaded onto a transporter, but as workers were hand-tightening a series of bolts, they encountered a bit of resistance.

“The workers had a choice,” Bauder said. “They could have continued to try to insert the two bolts — but they stopped.”

Heads came together to figure out what was happening, minor work was done on the bolts, they were successfully inserted and the whole process resumed, spokesman John Dobken said.

That’s exactly how San Onofre’s new, improved fuel transfer procedures are supposed to work, he said.

Critics continue to worry about the integrity of those canisters — which have scratches from their descent into the vaults — over what could be decades in the San Onofre’s salty seaside atmosphere. They demand that the waste be moved from what they deride as a “beachfront nuclear waste dump” immediately, but that requires action from a federal government that has dithered on the issue for some 70 years.

The road to here

San Onofre’s reactors powered down in 2012 after tubes in its brand-new steam generators cracked, resulting in a small radiation leak. After local opposition to restarting it appeared insurmountable, San Onofre was shuttered for good in 2013.

The plant will be dismantled – a $4 billion job that’s expected to take at least another decade – and all the spent fuel currently cooling in its spent fuel pools will be transferred to dry storage by next year.

Dry storage is considered safer, and waste began moving from pools to Holtec’s “concrete monolith” in 2018. Officials hoped to empty the pools this year, but were quickly beset by mishaps.

In February 2018, Edison was preparing to load a canister with spent fuel when workers discovered a loose, stainless steel bolt inside, about four inches long. An investigation revealed that contractor Holtec had altered the canister design — adding pins to the bottom of the canisters to help gas flow — without notifying Edison or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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On July 22, workers had difficulties centering and aligning a canister as it was being lowered into a vault. The canister did not get stuck, though, and the incident was not entered into the plant’s “corrective action program” — a system designed to catch and learn from mishaps.

And on Aug. 3, there was a more serious misalignment problem when Canister No. 29 got stuck on a rim near the top of the 18-foot-deep vault where it was to be entombed. Workers didn’t realize that the slings supporting the canister’s massive weight had gone slack. It hung there, unsupported, for close to an hour, in danger of dropping. High radiation readings alerted workers that something was awry, and they reattached No. 29 to the slings and lowered it into the vault without further incident.

Canister No. 30 was loaded and ready to go when No. 29 got stuck, but transfers screeched to a halt as the NRC and Edison tried to unravel what happened and how to stop it from happening again. In November, the NRC laid blame squarely at Edison’s feet, saying it “fell asleep at the switch” and concluded that the near-drop was the result of inadequate training, oversight and supervision.

Since then, Holtec and Edison have adopted many new checks and balances to keep the errors of the past from repeating themselves, officials said.

Cameras watched as No. 30 descended into the storage vault — there had never been cameras before. Workers perched above the scene in an elevated “lift basket.” An alarm would have screeched if there was a sudden, significant change in the weight supported by the machinery — indicating the canister was stuck.

Workers at all levels have been more rigorously trained, there are more oversight managers, and management is much more “intrusively engaged.”

There are 43 more canisters to load before the pools are empty. Each canister requires about a week of work, from pool to vault.

“We absolutely are not going to take any shortcuts,” Bauder vowed.

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LAS VEGAS — Fourteen years ago, Winky Wright gave former middleweight champ Felix Trinidad 12 rounds of post-graduate tutoring.

Wright won all but two rounds on the judges’ three cards. The lesson was clear: Trinidad should retire, which he did.

“We knew how good Trinidad could be if he set himself,” Wright said Thursday. “So we were going to jab him and keep off-balance so he couldn’t throw anything solid.”

The other part of the “we” is here again, taking another Florida fighter against a legend.

Dan Birmingham trained Wright and trains Keith Thurman, who meets Manny Pacquiao here Saturday.

Birmingham proves that not all the boxing masterminds live in New York or L.A. or Las Vegas. He runs the St. Pete Boxing Gym in a rough part of St. Petersburg, near Thurman’s home of Clearwater. Like all boxing lives, his is a story of unforeseen twists.

“When I first went down to Florida I was working on a roof,” Birmingham said. “I looked down and saw guys who were painting walls. I said, I think I’ll be a painter. I wound up running my own business for 37 years.

“I had just broken up with a girlfriend. A friend had gone down there and said, it’s beautiful, you’ll never go home. Sure enough, I never went home.”

Home was Youngstown, Ohio, where fighting isn’t confined to the gym. Birmingham fought in the 112-pound division as a kid.

“Except I only weighed 85 pounds,” he said. “When I got on the scale, all the other fighters in my weight class came around. They said, ‘White guy, you better bring a gun.’”

Ray Mancini, who analyzes fights for Fox, is from Youngstown. He won the lightweight championship that his father never could. Kelly Pavlik, the middleweight titleist from the late 90s, is a Youngstown guy.

“Back then we had a bunch of fighters but none of them turned pro,” Mancini said. “They were banging around, just road warriors. I wanted to go to the 1980 Olympics and I lost the Golden Gloves and was so heartbroken, I turned pro. Turned out to be the right decision. That was the Olympics we didn’t go to.”

There was Tommy Bell, who lost a welterweight title shot against Ray Robinson in 1946. There was heavyweight Jack Trammel and middleweight Tony Janiro, who won 80 bouts and never fought for a championship. That was not so unusual back then.

Birmingham’s trainer was Art Mayorga. “He used to be one of Sonny Liston’s sparring partners,” Birmingham said, smiling. “Somebody would say something to Sonny in a bar, and Sonny would just turn around and knock the guy out.

“Youngstown was a good place to fight if you were Italian and you were connected. Otherwise, it was a tough go. I went to Catholic school and got to know those kids. You’d hear about one of their dads getting blown up in a car, something like that. It was a tough town but it made you strong.”

Birmingham trained Jeff Lacy and Chad Dawson and Wright. One day, trainer Ben Getty brought Thurman into the gym. Thurman was 11 years old. Pretty soon Birmingham gave Getty and Thurman the keys to the joint. Getty passed away in 2009, at 63, and Birmingham took up the torch.

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Thurman is 29-0 with 22 knockouts and wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia. If not for elbow surgery and a deep bone bruise on his hand, he likely would still have a belt. Pacquiao has something called the WBA Super belt, but the 147-pound division has effectively become a tournament. The final, at some point, should match Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford, but it’s boxing. Anything can happen between the bells.

“Keith was a big slugger,” Birmingham said. “I wanted him to work on his legs and his speed and his boxing skills. He’s done that. I’ve never had anybody who dropped out of high school who was that smart. He wants to make a lot of money in this game, but he also wants a legacy.

“Manny’s fast and he throws straight punches. Keith will try to trap him in the corner, trap him against the ropes. We don’t know what will happen, but Keith has shown he can adjust.”

Wright says Birmingham can, too.

“I would come back in the corner and Dan would tell me something and I’d say, yeah, but that’s not what I’m seeing,” Wright said. “And Dan would say, OK, let’s do it like you want to. He knows how to put together a plan and then work off that.”

The canvas belongs to Thurman and Pacquiao, but someone else knows the paint.

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  • Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after getting a birdie on the 16th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Tiger Woods of the United States prepares to chip onto the 18th green, as the scoreboard shows the leading players and Woods score been at bottom left, during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

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  • Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy putts on the 6th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Rickie Fowler of the United States reacts after hitting his shot on the 6th tee during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy plays his approach shot to the 7th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Tiger Woods of the United States looks up as he walks off the 18th green after completing his first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Brooks Koepka of the United States plays a shot to the 17th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Tiger Woods of the United States prepares to chip onto the 18th green, as the scoreboard shows the leading players and Woods score been at bottom left, during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Spain’s Sergio Garcia looks at the 5th green before putting during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy looks for his ball in the long rough on the 1st hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • China’s Haotong Li putts on the 1st green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Sweden’s Alex Noren plays his tee shot on the 7th hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy points with his club on the 5th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Gary Woodland of the United States attempts to find a sure footing to play his ball that is on the top edge of a bunker on the 7th hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • England’s Paul Casey plays his shot to the 8th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Gary Woodland of the United States picks his ball out of the 4th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Spectators take cover under umbrellas a heavy rain falls as they watch golfers during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Brooks Koepka of the United States shelters under his umbrella on the 9th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Dustin Johnson of the United States, right and Australia’s Jason Day touch hands with spectators as they walk to the 4th tee during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Patrick Reed of the United States plays out of the rough on the 9th hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Tiger Woods of the United States walks off the 9th green as he acknowledges the crowd during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Spain’s Jon Rahm looks at his putt on the 12th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • JB Holmes of the US plays on the 18th hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (David Davies/PA via AP)

  • Spain’s Jon Rahm looks at his putt on the 18th green during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Matt Kuchar of the United States reacts after hitting his shot at the 17th during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

  • Tiger Woods of the United States walks off the 15th tee down the fairway during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Jon Super)

  • Spain’s Jon Rahm plays his tee shot at the 14th hole during the first round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Thursday, July 18, 2019.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — An emotional opening shot by Darren Clarke. A shocking one by Rory McIlroy.

Tiger Woods had his worst score to start a British Open. Brooks Koepka quickly got into contention again.

Emiliano Grillo made a 1. David Duval made a 14.

The Open returned to Royal Portrush after a 68-year absence and made up for lost time with an unusual amount of theater Thursday. When more than 15 hours of golf before a robust, sellout crowd finally ended, J.B. Holmes was atop the leaderboard at a major for the first time in 11 years.

Even that might have been fitting. The big hitter from a small town in Kentucky had his first taste of links golf at Royal Portrush during a college trip, and he recalled how the caddies kept giving him the wrong lines off the tee because they had never seen anyone hit it that far.

Holmes drove the downwind 374-yard fifth hole to 12 feet for a two-putt birdie, and he ended with a 5-iron into the wind to 15 feet for a final birdie and a 5-under 66.

“You just have to accept the conditions over here and not get too greedy,” Holmes said.

He had a one-shot lead over Shane..

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