Charlotte, N.C. There was little recognition outside the racing world when Jimmie Johnson won his first NASCAR championship.
Same with his second, and again with his third.
But four straight championships? That’s a different story.
Johnson, the first driver in NASCAR history to win four consecutive titles, earned mainstream recognition Monday when he was honored as the Male Athlete of the Year by members of the Associated Press.
Johnson received 42 votes from editors at U.S. newspapers which are members of the AP. Tennis star Roger Federer (30 votes) and Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt (29) were the only other athletes with totals in the double- digits.
Although Tiger Woods was named Athlete of the Decade, the golfer received only nine votes for Athlete of the Year. He was tied with NBA star Kobe Bryant and slugger Albert Pujols in fourth place. Woods, who was ranked No. 1 in his sport but failed to win one of golf’s majors this season, was never a top contender — even before the sex scandal that unraveled his personal life following a Nov. 27 traffic accident.
Yanks get $26M tax
New York — Winning came with a hefty price for the New York Yankees.
The World Series champions were hit with a luxury tax of nearly $25.69 million Monday, according to information received by clubs and obtained by the Associated Press.
New York is the only team to pay a tax for this season and has crossed the threshold in all seven years since the tax started. According to the collective-bargaining agreement, the Yankees must send a check to the commissioner’s office by Jan. 31.
Nationals, Marquis agree
Washington — Free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis and the Washington Nationals have agreed to a two-year contract, pending a physical, two people familiar with the deal told the Associated Press on Monday. One person said the agreement is worth about $15 million.
Padres acquire C Ryan
San Diego — The Padres have acquired catcher Dusty Ryan from the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named or cash. Ryan appeared in 12 games for the Tigers last year, going 4 for 26 with four RBIs.
Indians get P from Rays
Cleveland — The Cleveland Indians acquired pitcher Mitch Talbot from Tampa Bay on Monday, completing the trade that sent catcher Kelly Shoppach to the Rays. The Indians also sent cash with Shoppach to the Rays in the Dec. 1 deal.
MLB, umps near new deal
New York — Major League Baseball and its umpires are nearing agreement on a new contract, two people familiar with the negotiations said Monday. The deal could be reached as soon as today, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcements were authorized.
Albany, N.Y. — The New York Racing Association said Monday it’s facing a cash crunch that could threaten the Belmont Stakes and thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown because the state government still hasn’t approved video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack.
Holmgren new Browns pres
Berea, Ohio — Mike Holmgren has decided to see if he can fix the Cleveland Browns.
The Super Bowl-winning coach accepted a job to become the club’s president, joining a franchise needing a major makeover after a decade of losing.
Brodeur sets record
Pittsburgh — Martin Brodeur broke the NHL record with his 104th career shutout.
KU still No. 1; KSU No. 12
Kansas will be spending at least one more week atop the Associated Press’ college basketball poll, a spot it has held all season.
Another Big 12 team from that state jumped to territory it hasn’t been in over 25 years.
Kansas State moved up to No. 12 on Monday, its highest ranking since the Wildcats were ninth in the final poll of 1972-73.
The Jayhawks (10-0), who beat Michigan 75-64 in their only game last week, saw their lead over Texas trimmed a bit. They received 55 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel, six less than it had a week earlier. Those votes all went to Texas (10-0), which beat No. 10 North Carolina 103-90 on Saturday, and was No. 1 on seven ballots.
UConn women still No. 1
Geno Auriemma doesn’t worry too much about streaks — unless it’s national championships.
His unbeaten Huskies were No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 for the 31st straight week Monday, surpassing the school record set by from 1999-2001.
Kansas University moved up a spot to No. 21.
Monroe eligible for UT
Austin, Texas — No. 2 Texas will have freshman kick returner D.J. Monroe back in the lineup for the BCS national championship game against No. 1 Alabama. Monroe set a school record by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, but was suspended from the last three games after being arrested on a charge of drunken driving in November. The DWI charge was dropped Friday as part of a plea agreement. Monroe pleaded guilty to obstruction of a passageway.
Three USC players out
Los Angeles — Southern California has ruled three players academically ineligible for the Emerald Bowl against Boston College. USC announced Monday that tight end Anthony McCoy and tackle Tyron Smith, both starters, and defensive end Averell Spicer, a key reserve, will not play Dec. 26 in San Francisco.