Talladega, Ala. NASCAR’s three title contenders left Talladega Superspeedway with their championship chances intact, as Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick remained locked at the top of the tightest points fight in seven years after a typically chaotic race.
Clint Bowyer edged Harvick, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, in a photo-finish Sunday. But Harvick was just fine settling for second because it’s the big picture that matters now.
Johnson, the four-time defending champion, left Talladega with a 14-point lead over Hamlin, and Harvick was 38 back. There are three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“It’s going to be an awesome championship battle all the way to Homestead, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Johnson said.
The race was marked by 87 lead changes, second most in NASCAR history, and a multicar accident that sent AJ Allmendinger’s car flipping across the track as the leaders roared toward the white flag. NASCAR threw the caution for Allmendinger’s accident, and nobody had any idea who was out front when the yellow waved.
It took several minutes of reviews for NASCAR to declare Bowyer the victor. He jumped the gun with celebratory burnouts, then stuck his hand out his window for a congratulatory high-five with Harvick, who waited in his parked Chevrolet for the NASCAR call.
For Emporia’s Bowyer, the winner, it was a redemption of sorts. He stormed out of the gates at the start of the Chase by winning the opener at New Hampshire, only to be stripped of 150 championship points when NASCAR said his car was illegal.
Bowyer has been stalled in last place in the 12-driver Chase field, eager to prove his team is better then where it is ranked. Although he’s still 12th after Sunday’s win, he’s only 50 points out of seventh place.
“To be able to win, it is redemption,” Bowyer said. “It finally puts that behind me as a racecar driver, as a person, and us as a race team.”
Irish QB Crist undergoes surgery
South Bend, Ind. — After a bye this week, Notre Dame (4-5) will play its final three games without quarterback Dayne Crist, who underwent surgery Sunday morning to reattach a torn patellar tendon in his left knee after being hurt Saturday in the 28-27 loss to the Golden Hurricane. And leading rusher Armando Allen, who has torn cartilage in his hip, also could have surgery. His career at Notre Dame is over.
Vols’ freshman DE arrested
Knoxville, Tenn. — Tennessee freshman defensive end Jacques Smith was arrested after an altercation with another student at a Knoxville bar.
Tennessee official Jimmy Stanton says Smith and the student argued about a woman late Saturday night, and other Volunteers players stepped in to “diffuse the situation.” The Vols had already returned from South Carolina, where they lost to the Gamecocks, 38-24, earlier in the day. Stanton says there were no major injuries, but the student decided to press charges after he and Smith left the scene. Smith turned himself into police on a charge of assault with bodily injury on Sunday.
Low ratings for Giants-Rangers
New York — Game 3 earned the second-lowest television rating for a World Series game.
The Texas Rangers’ 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night on Fox drew a 6.7 rating and 13 share, beating only the 6.1 for Game 3 of the 2008 Phillies-Rays series. That game was delayed 91 minutes because of rain and didn’t start until after 10 p.m. on the East Coast.
The rating was down 26 percent from the 9.1 for Game 3 of last season’s Yankees-Phillies World Series.
McDowell takes title in Spain
Sotogrande, Spain — Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell won the Andalucia Masters on Sunday at Valderrama, closing with a 3-over 74 for a two-stroke victory.
Crane claims Asia Pacific Classic
Selangor, Malaysia — American Ben Crane won the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic, eagling the par-4 15th and making an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat England’s Brian Davis by a stroke. Crane closed with a 2-under 69 at The Mines to finish at 18 under.
Choi successfully defends crown
Incheon, South Korea — South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi successfully defended her title in the LPGA Hana Bank Championship, shooting a 3-under 69 on Sunday for a two-stroke victory over Vicky Hurst.
Monday qualifier finishes on top
San Antonio — Monday qualifier Rod Spittle won the AT&T; Championship for his first Champions Tour victory, beating Jeff Sluman with a par on the first hole of a playoff. Spittle, a 55-year-old Canadian, and Sluman closed with 4-under 67s to finish at 12 under on the Oak Hills Country Club course. Spittle earned $262,500.
Clijsters overcomes Wozniacki
Doha, Qatar — Kim Clijsters shook off six weeks on the sideline and top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki to win the season-ending WTA Championships on Sunday. Clijsters used the same focus and concentration a day after escaping unscathed from a fender-bender to defeat Wozniacki, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, for her third WTA Championships title.
Ex-Blazer Lucas dies at age of 58
Portland, Ore. — Maurice Lucas, the fierce power forward who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, has died after a long fight with bladder cancer. He was 58. The Trail Blazers said Lucas died Sunday.
Lucas, whose No. 20 was retired by the Blazers in 1988, joined Portland in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft and led the 1976-77 championship team in scoring with a 20.2 average. He also averaged 11.2 rebounds that season.
The former Marquette player averaged 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in 12 NBA seasons.