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National briefs: Busch barred from weekend NASCAR races

November 6, 2011

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— Kyle Busch finally went too far for NASCAR, even in the era of “Boys, have at it.”

The often volatile Busch was barred from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas this weekend, a rare step taken by NASCAR after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series race there.

NASCAR President Mike Helton announced the decision Saturday after a meeting with Busch and Joe Gibbs, his Sprint Cup and Nationwide car owner.

Busch is the first driver since Robby Gordon in August 2007 to be taken out of a Cup race for actions in another NASCAR race the same weekend. Kevin Harvick, the owner of Hornaday’s truck, was kept out of the Cup race at Martinsville in 2002 after an incident in a truck race there the previous day.

Michael McDowell will take over in Sunday’s race for Busch, who was seventh in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings.

Denny Hamlin, another Gibbs driver, took over Busch’s Nationwide seat Saturday.

It’s a ‘Texas Title Fight’ today

Fort Worth, Texas — Cousin Carl vs. Smoke.

There is a tale of the tape and even lockers complete with boxing gloves and robes for both Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, the top contenders in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points chase. There is huge banner featuring boxing promoter Don King with Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.

OK, so this “Texas Title Fight” — as the race is being billed — will be on the track today, and without the often volatile Kyle Busch.

Edwards got to Texas with a mere eight-point lead over Stewart, who last week won for the third time in seven Chase races and in Victory Lane said the points leader “better be worried. That’s all I’m saying.”

Bayne wins Texas Nationwide

Fort Worth, Texas — Trevor Bayne earned his first career NASCAR Nationwide victory when he passed dominating teammate Carl Edwards after a tremendous restart with seven laps remaining and held on Saturday at Texas.

Bayne won the Daytona 500 this year but had never won in his previous 76 Nationwide starts in the series where he is a regular for Roush Fenway Racing.

Edwards, the Cup points leader, led 157 of 200 laps at the 11⁄2-mile, high-banked track. He still led on the last restart before Bayne got a good run and eventually got by him.

Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse finished sixth and has a 17-point lead over Elliott Sadler with two races to go.

Thome heads back to Philly

Philadelphia — Jim Thome wants his second stint in Philadelphia to come with the World Series title he missed the first time around.

Thome agreed to a $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Phillies on Saturday, returning to the franchise for a second time.

The 41-year-old Thome hit .256 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI in a combined 93 games with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians last season. He batted .350 with runners in scoring position and .424 over his final 11 games of the season.

Thome played for Philadelphia from 2003-05 and has remained close with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, his hitting coach for several years in Cleveland.

Djokovic upset in Swiss semis

Basel, Switzerland — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic was stunned in the Swiss Indoors semifinals on Saturday, losing 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-0 to Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

Nishikori was overmatched in the first set but turned the match around by winning a thrilling rally when Djokovic was just two points from victory at 5-4 in the second.

The 32nd-ranked Nishikori, a wild card entry at the tournament, won the second-set tiebreaker then raced away with the final set for a career-best victory.

He will play Roger Federer in today’s final after the defending champion beat Stanislas Wawrinka — his gold medal-winning doubles partner at the Beijing Olympics — 7-6 (5), 6-2 in the other semifinal.

Former champ Frazier dying

Philadelphia — Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier has liver cancer and is under hospice care.

The 67-year-old boxer was diagnosed four or five weeks ago, Frazier’s personal and business manager said Saturday. Leslie Wolff told the Associated Press that doctors have not yet told Frazier how long he has to live.

“We have medical experts looking into the all the options that are out there,” Wolff said. “There are very few. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop looking.”

Wolff, who has been Frazier’s manager for seven years, said the boxer had been in out and out of the hospital since early October and receiving hospice treatment the last week.

Frazier was the first man to beat Muhammad Ali, knocking him down and taking a decision in the so-called Fight of the Century in 1971. He would go on to lose two more fights to Ali, including the epic “Thrilla in Manila” bout.

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