Talladega, Ala. — Jamie McMurray was the unlikely winner of an uncharacteristically dull race at Talladega Superspeedway, where a ban on bump-drafting forced most competitors to treat the event as a slow Sunday drive.
The day started with a stern warning from NASCAR president Mike Helton against the aggressive driving that has turned Talladega into the most exciting track on the circuit. What followed was an anesthetized first 450 miles, with long periods of single-file traffic and no driver willing to defy NASCAR’s order not to bump through the corners.
But the action picked up with roughly 20 laps remaining, and with it came the typical Talladega mayhem. Ryan Newman’s harrowing crash with five laps to go left him upside down in the grass, and NASCAR needed a stoppage of almost 13 minutes to cut him from the car.
That set up a two-lap sprint to the finish, and that was halted when championship contender Mark Martin went flipping across the track in his own spectacular crash.
The race ended under caution, with McMurray in Victory Lane for the first time in 86 races. Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, likely wrapped up his NASCAR-record fourth-consecutive championship because of all the late action.
Because Johnson spent most of the race puttering around the back of the pack, he was stuck back in the mid-20s when Newman crashed. Crew chief Chad Knaus sensed a lengthy delay and quickly called Johnson in for gas — a decision that may have clinched the title.
When cars ahead of him in the running order began to run out of gas because of the red-flag delay, Johnson vaulted up in the standings. The final finishing order showed him in eighth, but he was adamant he finished sixth.
After a lengthy review, Johnson was indeed credited with a sixth-place finish that stretched his lead in the standings to 184 points over Martin with three races remaining.
“From where we were with the red flag to where we finished, I’m still in shock,” Johnson said. “I can’t believe that it worked out. I can’t believe that many guys ran out of fuel and put themselves in that position.”
Rush’s option picked up
Indianapolis — The Indiana Pacers have picked up the options on starters Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush.
The Pacers made the announcement Sunday in a news release.
Both players were chosen in the first round of the 2008 draft and acquired through trades.
Rush, a guard from Kansas University, averaged 8.1 points and 3.1 rebounds last season. He stepped in when Mike Dunleavy was injured and performed well enough to earn the starting job this season. He scored 29 points on back-to-back days in March.
Ex-player Ogg dies
Birmingham, Ala. — Alan Ogg, a 7-foot-2 shot-blocker who played for UAB and spent parts of three seasons in the NBA, died Sunday from complications from a staph infection, a university spokesman said. He was 42.
Texas back to No. 2
New York — Texas is back to No. 2 in the AP college football poll.
The Longhorns jumped Alabama and landed right behind top-ranked Florida on Sunday, a day after winning 41-14 at Oklahoma State in their best performance of the season.
Florida, No. 1 for all but one week this season, received 38 first-place votes after a 41-17 victory over Georgia.
The Longhorns started the season ranked second, but have been No. 3 behind the Gators and Crimson Tide the last three weeks. Texas received 13 first-place votes from the media panel. Many voters were swayed by the ease with which Longhorns handled Oklahoma State.
NU’s Suh ticketed
Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska star nose tackle Ndamukong Suh has been ticketed for negligent driving after he hit three parked cars on a narrow street east of campus early Sunday.
A breathalyzer test showed Suh’s blood-alcohol level at .035, well below the legal limit of .08, according to an incident report.
Suh, who was driving a 2003 Land Rover sport-utility vehicle, told officers he struck the first vehicle after he swerved to avoid hitting a small dog or cat crossing the street.
OSU RB wants to play
Stillwater, Okla. — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy says it’s not an option to shut down starting tailback Kendall Hunter for the season due to a lingering injury.
Hunter had missed the Cowboys’ last five games before he had one carry for one yard in Saturday night’s 41-14 loss to Texas.
“Kendall doesn’t want to do that. Kendall wants to play,” Gundy said Sunday. “He’s continued to get a little better each week, and he’s practiced, that hasn’t changed. Hopefully he’ll be in less pain this week.
“I don’t think that he’ll play at any time this season without feeling some sort of pain in that foot. That’s just my guess. Hopefully it’ll lessen as it progresses.”
Auburn safety out
Auburn, Ala. — Auburn strong safety Zac Etheridge likely will miss the rest of the season due to a neck injury sustained against Mississippi.
Lewis plans to retire
Chicago — Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis says he plans to retire at the end of the season. Lewis told reporters after the Browns’ 30-6 loss Sunday at Chicago that his 10th season will be his final one, adding, “I mean what I say.”
Two women: Cable abusive
The former wife of Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable and a recent girlfriend claim Cable has a history of violent behavior toward women and asked that he seek help for his anger.
Sandy Cable and Marie Lutz said in seperate interviews on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that the first-year head coach physically abused them at various times during their relationships.
Cook wins by 5 strokes
Sonoma, Calif. — John Cook won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championships by five strokes for his second Champions Tour title in three weeks, while Loren Roberts held on to win the season points title.
Cook, also the Administaff Small Business Classic winner two weeks ago in Texas, closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 22-under 266 at Sonoma Golf Club. He broke the tournament record of 268 shared by Jim Thorpe and Andy Bean.
Fisher beats Kim
Casares, Spain — Ross Fisher beat Anthony Kim 4 and 3 on Sunday to win the 36-hole World Match Play Championship final.
Fisher eagled the 22nd hole and birdied the next to take a 3-up lead at the Finca Cortesin golf course. Kim won the next hole before missing short putts at the next two, then squandering several chances to win holes down the stretch.
Choi picks up second win
Incheon, South Korea — Na Yeon Choi made birdie at the last hole for a 5-under 67 on Sunday, giving her a one-shot victory over Maria Hjorth and Yani Tseng at the Hana Bank KOLON Championships.
Choi and Hjorth played in the same group and were tied heading to 18, where they both hit nice tee shots to the left side of the fairway. Hjorth hit a 4-iron into a water hazzard, while Choi laid up in front of the green.
Poulter wins by stroke
Singapore — Ian Poulter shot a final-round 72 on Sunday to win the Singapore Open by a shot over Liang Wenchong.
Britton wins Senior PGA Pro
Port St. Lucie, Fla. — PGA Tour winner Bill Britton won the Senior PGA Professional National Championship on Sunday, closing with a 5-under 67 for a tournament-record 18-under 270 total and a one-stroke victory over Perry Arthur.
American takes title
New York — Meb Keflezighi became the first U.S. man to win the New York City Marathon since 1982 on Sunday, a victory that capped an outstanding day for American distance running.
Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia captured the women’s race, with two-time defending champ Paula Radcliffe falling back to fourth then grabbing her left leg in pain after finishing.
Serena beats Venus
Doha, Qatar — Serena Williams bested big sister Venus again Sunday, winning 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships final.
Serena broke twice in the first set and lost just seven points on serve in her last match of the year.