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Rally driver returns to X Games podium

| Monday, Aug. 4, 2008, 12:00 p.m.

Travis Pastrana returned to the gold medal podium at the X Games on Sunday after an off-year, winning the Rally Car Racing Super Special, the final event of the action sports showcase in Carson, Calif.

"I'm really excited to be here and to have a chance to come back," Pastrana said after jumping down from a top-of-the car celebration. "This feels really good."

One of the X Games' most dominant and dynamic athletes, Pastrana handily beat defending gold medalist and movie stunt driver Tanner Foust in the head-to-head final run over dirt, pavement and jumps.

The single-elimination, one-on-one event, as opposed to the timed stages usually used for rally, encourages an all-or-nothing style that Pastrana embraced.

"You have to push," Pastrana said. "If I'm a little bit behind, I have to make up that time, and the only way to make up that time is full video game style. You just start bouncing off stuff."

Pastrana, though, bounced off far less stuff than his opponents.

In the final, Foust cleanly cleared the giant jump in the middle of the Home Depot Center but hit the wall as he was leaving the arena for the street course and never quite recovered.

"I kind of went for the brake and went a little bit wide and hit the wall there, and bent the right rear corner of the car," Foust said.

And Pastrana got a gift when the car of his semifinal opponent Ken Block stalled at the start and never left.

Block shared the bronze with Dave Mirra, a BMX biker making his rally debut who gave the crowd huge thrills with his wild style. Mirra had already bent his wheels in a wall crash during the quarterfinal when his opponent, Andrew Comrie-Picard, drew gasps with an end-over-end flip on the course's giant jump. Mirra's twisted tires forced him to do a series of awkward three-point turns to limp home for the win.

Pastrana churned up a huge dust cloud with his Subaru and took out a pair of advertising placards in his victory celebration.

For years Pastrana, originally a motocross rider, dominated Moto X Freestyle at the X Games, taking six golds in eight years.

His action-sports stardom and X-Games darling status peaked in 2006 with a double-backflip in Moto X Best Trick, one of the games' great moments.

He won two other golds that year, including a dramatic win in the inaugural rally car when rally racing legend Colin McCrae rolled his car in the final and continued on, narrowly losing to Pastrana.

Also yesterday, veteran skater Rune Glifberg finally broke through in the X Games new showpiece Skateboard SuperPark.

"It's my first X Games gold medal, 14 years in the making," Glifberg said.

Andy MacDonald of San Diego won silver and San Francisco's Tony Trujillo won bronze.

Motor sports

In Budapest, Hungary, McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen won his first Formula One race after an engine problem forced Felipe Massa out of the Hungarian Grand Prix with three laps to go. Massa overtook Kovalainen and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton at the start and was heading for his fourth win of the season after Hamilton dropped out of contention with a tire puncture. But the Brazilian's Ferrari engine overheated toward the end, and Kovalainen took an 11-second victory over Timo Glock of Toyota.

Tennis

In Mason, Ohio, one point away from his first Masters series championship, Andy Murray let the moment get to him. Britain's top player wasted four match points with an uncharacteristic show of sloppiness in the second set. Forced to play another tiebreaker, he pulled off the best shot of the game -- an in-the-corner backhand -- that set up a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Novak Djokovic for the Cincinnati Masters title.

• In Montreal, Dinara Safina, the seventh seed from Russia, easily handled unseeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in a 6-2, 6-1 victory at Uniprix Stadium to win the Rogers Cup. It was a second win in a row for Safina, who beat Flavia Pannetta in the final in Los Angeles last week. With a win earlier this year in Berlin, it was the 22-year-old's third victory of the year and the eighth of her career.

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