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Mavs suspend Rondo for game after exchange with Carlisle

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 8:06pm

ATLANTA (AP) The Dallas Mavericks suspended Rajon Rondo for their game Wednesday night in Atlanta for conduct detrimental to the team, a day after the point guard had a heated exchange on the court with coach Rick Carlisle and was benched.

Carlisle said he must communicate better with Rondo.

"The incident last night was born in large part from poor communication between him and I," Carlisle said before Dallas' 104-87 loss. "That's on both of us. We had a long talk about the situation today and we both agreed we need to communicate more frequently and we need to work on the solution of making his stint as a Dallas Maverick the most successful one possible."

Rondo came out with 8:10 left in the third quarter of Dallas' 99-92 home victory over Toronto. He was bringing the ball up the court when Carlisle angrily shouted for a timeout and exchanged words with Rondo from several feet away as the player headed to the bench.

The Mavericks were trailing by nine when Rondo was pulled and rallied with backups Devin Harris and J.J. Barea running the offense along with leading scorer Monta Ellis, who sometimes handles the ball.

Carlisle said Rondo will return as a starter for the Mavericks' next game against Brooklyn on Saturday.

"It's one game. He'll serve it tonight," Carlisle said. "We'll be off tomorrow. He'll practice Friday and he'll be back in the starting lineup on Saturday. The events of last night are now in the past and we've got to move forward.

"I need to say this very clearly: He's an extremely important part of our team. Our efforts to get to the highest possible level largely hinge on ... playing well with him. He needs to play well with us and we need to play well with him. It's a two-way street."

Carlisle said the suspension was "an organizational decision."

The suspension left the Mavericks with only 11 players against the Hawks. Center Tyson Chandler was held out with a hip contusion and forward Amare Stoudemire was rested with the team playing on back-to-back days. Forward Chandler Parsons was held out with a left ankle injury.

Acquired in a trade with Boston in December to try to improve the playoff outlook for the Mavericks in the difficult Western Conference, Rondo hasn't had an easy transition.

The four-time All-Star who won a title with the Celtics in 2008 was on the bench in the final minutes of a four-point loss to Chicago about a month after the trade and said afterward he didn't have a problem with Carlisle's decision. Dallas' offense has sunk from the top of the league to fourth in points per game since he arrived.

"For us to get where we want to get ... his abilities have to be utilized by us the best possible way," Carlisle said. "That's in large part my responsibility and I do not dodge that. And a lot of that starts with great communication with him. I'm always working on being a better communicator and we talked about it today. He admitted that he's got to do the same. So that's where we are and we'll go forward from here."

Also brought in to improve the Mavericks' perimeter defense with a long list of strong guards in the West, Rondo had some success against Houston's James Harden and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook before breaking a bone near his left eye at Orlando and missing six games.

In his first game back after the All-Star break, Rondo couldn't slow Westbrook in a blowout loss to the Thunder. He bounced back with a solid outing in a win over Harden and the Rockets.

The Mavericks made the move for Rondo after offseason pickup Jameer Nelson struggled at the point. Dallas gave up Nelson, swingman Jae Crowder, forward Brandan Wright and two draft picks for Rondo and forward Dwight Powell, who has played sparingly.

The win over Toronto gave the Mavericks a sweep of a three-game homestand and pulled them within half a game of Houston for third place in the tightly packed West. There are four teams separated by just a game and a half in the battle for two spots with home-court advantage in the first round.

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AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

AP source: Manning, Broncos talking about reworking contract

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:15pm

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) It looks as if it's going to come down to money.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations confirms the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning's representatives are discussing ways to revise his contract and give the team more flexibility in free agency.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Manning, who has made more money than any player in pro football history, is due to make another $19 million in both 2015 and `16, and his salary cap number for next season is $21.2 million.

John Elway has traditionally been one of the more aggressive general managers in the NFL when it comes to free agency, and he has plenty of problems to fix again this offseason.

Last year he lured DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders, Pro Bowlers all, and he wants to make another run at a Super Bowl title with Manning, who turns 39 next month.

Redoing Manning's deal would give Elway more maneuverability as he addresses Denver's offseason needs, including retooling the offensive line that figures to have up to three new members next season.

Following Denver's playoff loss to his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, last month, Manning was non-committal about playing next season, which would be his 18th in the NFL. Elway asked him the next morning not to make a rash decision.

Manning flew to Denver on Feb. 12 to meet with Elway and new coach Gary Kubiak, both of whom said at the NFL scouting combine last week that they expected Manning to be their quarterback next season.

Manning must also pass a physical by March 5 where doctors check to see if there's any degeneration in his surgically repaired neck, but both the five-time MVP and Elway have said they consider that a mere formality.

The Broncos figure to have about $27 million to work with under the projected $148 million salary cap in 2015, but a franchise tag for star receiver Demaryius Thomas next week would eat up about half of that figure. Placing the franchise tag on Thomas would buy them some time to negotiate a long-term deal. They did that with kicker Matt Prater and blindside protector Ryan Clady.

They also have to allot at least $6 million for their bevy of draft picks that's expected to include multiple compensatory selections for all the free agents they lost last year.

Manning owns most of the significant QB records and is a half-season's worth of yards - 2,148 - shy of breaking Brett Favre's yardage record of 71,838.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Blackhawks' Kane has surgery for broken left clavicle

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 4:49pm

CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks star Patrick Kane had surgery Wednesday to repair a broken left collarbone, likely sidelining the dynamic forward for the rest of the season unless Chicago makes another deep run in the playoffs.

Team physician Dr. Michael Terry and Dr. Bradley Merk performed the surgery, and Terry said a full recovery will take "approximately 12 weeks."

Kane, who leads Chicago with 27 goals and 37 assists, lost his balance and crashed into the boards after he was cross-checked by Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic with 12:11 left in the first period of Tuesday night's 3-2 shootout victory over the Panthers.

He stayed down on the ice for a short time and was hunched over as he skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

The three-month timeline means Kane would be out until the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and lost to eventual champion Los Angeles in the conference finals a year ago, but it will be quite difficult to make a similar run without Kane, who was working on one of his best seasons.

"You miss a valuable guy, a buddy," coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday night. "He's having one of those years that are very noticeable. But the guys still got to stick with it. Playing the right way will be emphasized as we go along."

The 26-year-old Kane led Chicago with 20 points in last year's postseason. He had the winning goal against Philadelphia when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP when they won the title again two years ago.

"I don't think you replace the things that he does with the puck, the attention he gets," teammate Patrick Sharp said. "But one of the strengths of our organization is depth. When a player goes down, you try to collectively try to fill in for him. But you know, as well, as you can't replace Kaner."

The Blackhawks began preparing for the rest of the season when they placed Kane on long-term injured reserve Wednesday and recalled forward Teuvo Teravainen from Rockford of the American Hockey League. The 20-year-old Teravainen, who has two goals and two assists in 15 games with Chicago, is regarded as one of the NHL's top prospects.

The Blackhawks also assigned Trevor van Riemsdyk to their top minor league affiliate. The rookie defenseman, who had left knee surgery in November, likely will return after a conditioning stint with the IceHogs.

Kane's move to long-term injured reserve also creates some room with the salary cap ahead of Monday's trade deadline. But a couple of possible targets for the Blackhawks were on the move on Wednesday, and it's unclear what direction general manager Stan Bowman will take after the massive loss.

Chicago visits Florida on Thursday and Tampa Bay on Friday, and then returns to for a three-game homestand beginning Monday against Carolina.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Angels' Hamilton meeting with MLB about disciplinary issue

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 3:27pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is meeting with Major League Baseball officials about a disciplinary issue.

Angels spokesman Tim Mead confirmed the Los Angeles Times' initial report Wednesday that Hamilton went to New York to meet with baseball officials. The team declined to give any more specific information.

Hamilton hasn't reported to spring training in Arizona after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder earlier this month. He is expected to be out until after the regular season begins.

The 2010 AL MVP is entering the third season of a five-year, $125 million contract. Hamilton has been a disappointment for the Angels, batting just .255 with 31 homers and 123 RBIs in two seasons.

Hamilton also has a well-chronicled history of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, leading to previous suspensions.

MLB declined comment on Hamilton.

Cop: Shell casings in Hernandez car, at scene from same gun

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:16pm

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) A shell casing found in a car rented by ex-New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez and at the scene of a killing near his home were fired from the same weapon, a state police sergeant testified Wednesday.

Five shell casings were found near where Odin Lloyd was shot to death June 17, 2013, in an industrial park not far from the Hernandez home in North Attleborough. An employee of a rental car business has previously testified that she found one shell casing under the driver's seat of Hernandez's rented Nissan Altima, which he returned the day of the killing.

Police later found that shell casing in a trash bin at the business.

Sgt. Stephen Walsh testified Wednesday that his examination determined all six .45-caliber casings were fired by the same gun. He said they were consistent with having been fired from a Glock.

The murder weapon has never been found.

During cross-examination, the defense went after Walsh for not looking more thoroughly for ways to match the bullets, such as by contacting the manufacturer or by checking a national database for comparing bullets.

Council OKs Los Angeles-area stadium backed by Rams owner

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 12:22am

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) The Inglewood City Council late Tuesday night approved plans to build a football stadium that includes St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke as a partner, clearing a path for a return to the Los Angeles area of the NFL for the first time in two decades.

The council approved the $2 billion plan with a 5-0 vote after a meeting with several hours of public comment and many vocal Rams fans wearing jerseys in attendance.

With only a small handful of dissenters, most of the commenters exuberantly supported the move.

They included Henry Yet, 54, of Brea, a board member of the Southern California Ram boosters.

"I'm not going to sleep, I'll probably stay up all night just thinking about it," he said after the vote. "This is a monumental step."

Another commenter, Eric Geller, urged the council to "plant those shovels in the dirt tomorrow morning."

The vote adopts a new redevelopment plan without calling a public vote, effectively kickstarting construction and sidestepping lengthy environmental review of issues such as noise, traffic and air pollution.

It adds the 80,000 seat, 60-acre stadium to an existing 2009 plan to redevelop the former Hollywood Park racetrack site with homes, offices, stores, parks and open space and a hotel.

Kroenke is part of the Hollywood Park Land Co. development group that is promoting the project. But a plan is also in the works in St. Louis in hopes of keeping the team with a 64,000-seat stadium on the city's north riverfront.

Yet said he believed Kroenke and the team would make the move, even if there are legal or other obstacles.

"He knows he's going to be in litigation, but he has the money and the firepower to do it, and the city says yes," Yet said.

New urgency for Inglewood came to the issue last week with the announcement that the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are planning a shared stadium in suburban Carson if they don't get their current hometowns to cough up enough money to replace their aging stadiums. Another stadium plan remains alive for downtown Los Angeles, but has no team attached.

Stadium proponents said it is important to approve the concept as soon as possible to avoid delays in the redevelopment that already is underway. They would like construction to start by year's end to have a venue ready for the 2018 football season.

A Feb. 20 consultants' report to the city manager backing the stadium notes that the developer, not the public, would pay the cost of building the stadium and says the plan would allow the city - once home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings before they moved to Los Angeles - "to continue its legacy of providing the region with world-class sports and entertainment."

Christopher Meany, executive vice-president of the Hollywood Park Land Development Company said that the plan is important for the community and said at the meeting Tuesday night that the project is "really going to be the new heart of Inglewood."

"Their vision is being realized here," Meany said.

Meany has emphasized that the plan does not include any taxpayer dollars.

Mayor James Butts Jr. said the project was "the best financial arrangement in the history of stadium deals in this country."

But while the deal does not include upfront tax money, the development group expects to recoup up to $100 million in local tax dollars in the first five years of operation, which would cover costs ranging from installing street lights and fire hydrants to running shuttle buses and providing police security on game days.

Supporters also said the stadium would bring the city more than 10,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars a year in new tax revenue.

Chicago's Rose out again with knee injury, needs surgery

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 10:29pm

CHICAGO (AP) Derrick Rose's knee has failed him again.

The Chicago Bulls star will have surgery on his right knee for the second straight season, casting doubt on whether the once dynamic point guard will ever be the same after a series of injuries.

The team announced Tuesday night that Rose was feeling pain in his knee, and an exam and MRI confirmed a medial meniscus tear.

The 2011 NBA MVP played in only 10 games last season before he had surgery for the same injury in November 2013, shelving him for the year, but the Bulls said a timetable for his return will be determined after the operation.

It's unclear when Rose re-injured the knee. He appeared to be rounding into form last month, averaging 22.6 points over his final 14 games before the All-Star break, but he had struggled since returning to the court after the time off.

Rose became the latest NBA star to be sidelined for a significant period within the past few days.

Chris Bosh will miss the rest of the season after the Miami Heat announced blood clots were found on one of his lungs. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (left knee surgery) won't return this season, either.

Thunder star Kevin Durant had surgery on his right foot, and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis has a sprained right shoulder. Both are expected back this season.

Rose's status remains to be seen.

Rose had eight points on 1-for-13 shooting while playing almost 33 minutes in Monday night's 87-71 victory over Milwaukee. He averaged 10.7 points on 23.5 percent shooting in Chicago's first three games after the break.

It's a big blow for the surging Bulls (36-21), who have won six of seven and appeared to be picking up steam after a tough stretch. They lead the Central Division by a half-game over Cleveland, but any extended absence for Rose will make it quite difficult for Chicago to hold off LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

"Man feel bad for D.Rose! Keep your head up homie and stay strong G!" James tweeted after the injury was announced.

James was one of several NBA stars who took to social media to express their support for Rose, who has been dogged by injuries since he won the MVP award. All-Star teammate Jimmy Butler posted a picture of him and Rose with the message: "my point guard. my brother."

Rose was limited to 39 games during the 2011-12 season, and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia. He missed the next season altogether, and then last season was cut short by the right knee surgery.

Rose, 26, is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season. He has flashed his MVP form at times, attacking the rim, but his outside shot has been unreliable. He is shooting just 40.7 percent, the second-lowest average of his career, and is committing 3.2 turnovers per game.

The Bulls have shuffled players in and out of the lineup because of various ailments and have struggled to develop continuity after making some big moves last summer.

They signed All-Star Pau Gasol, giving them a big scoring presence inside, and with Rose back after missing most of the past two years, the Bulls came in looking to contend for a championship.

Now they wait to see how long Rose will be out with this injury.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Love, old captain, now 'new' captain of US Ryder Cup team

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 9:26pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Davis Love III was on his porch in Sea Island taking part in a conference call for the first Ryder Cup Task Force meeting, and he was shocked by what he heard.

First, the PGA of America really was going to let the players have a voice.

And then it quickly became clear the choice was going to be him.

Love was introduced Tuesday afternoon as U.S. captain for the 2016 matches at Hazeltine.

And while it appeared as though the Americans were looking in their past, he was presented as the start of a new model they hope can end two decades of European dominance.

He also was captain in 2012 at Medinah when Europe staged the biggest rally by a visiting team.

"I'm here with the same goal I had in 2012, but not as the same captain," Love said.

Love was part of an 11-member task force - eight of them former Ryder Cup players - that met twice since December.

The agenda for the first meeting was to define the role of the captains and assistant captains, and then to throw out names. Among those mentioned were Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Love.

Phil Mickelson, whose biting comments at Gleneagles regarding Tom Watson's style was the impetus for the task force, said the qualities of a captain included someone who was respected, didn't let his ego keep him from listening, some who could take the blame and share the credit, and who had the experience to build a blueprint for the next 20 years.

"There's only one guy who fits that bill," Mickelson said.

The PGA of America also announced changes to the U.S. team to boost its chances.

Qualifying for the top eight players will end after the first FedEx Cup playoff event (The Barclays) instead of the PGA Championship. Three of the four captain's picks will be selected after the third playoff event (BMW Championship), while the final pick will be selected after the Tour Championship.

With a crowded schedule in 2016 because of the Olympics, that means the 12th player will be chosen five days before the matches begin.

Also, two of the vice captains will be former captains, and the other two will be players with Ryder Cup experience. Love already has selected Tom Lehman, the 2006 captain, to help him at Hazeltine. Lehman is from Minnesota.

Mickelson said the task force realized it had its captain after the first meeting, but it met again in early February and reached the same conclusion. The vote was unanimous the first time around.

More than a captain they wanted, Mickelson said the players felt they had partial ownership in the future.

"We went from having zero input and zero continuity, and both of those things the Ryder Cup Task Force has solved," Mickelson said.

Love is the first U.S. captain to get another chance in the same decade since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, and the first since Jack Burke Jr. in 1973 to get a second chance after losing. And he can expect to be involved in more Ryder Cups after Hazeltine.

Mickelson said he wouldn't rule out Love returning as captain in 2018, but "for sure a vice captain."

"It's not just a two-year commitment," Mickelson said. "Really it's a four- or six-year commitment to get the thing started."

Europe last week selected Darren Clarke to be captain for Hazeltine.

Tiger Woods, who was part of the task force, congratulated Love in a statement and said he respected him as a person, player and captain. Woods, Mickelson and Love will be part of the "Ryder Cup Committee," along with three PGA officers, to resume the work of the task force.

Love said he "didn't go in asking" to be captain again.

"I could not be more excited to captain the 2016 team," he said. "But I agreed to do it for one reason. The members of the task force, to a man, have said they will do whatever it takes for this team to be successful. They are all in. Our team will trust each other and we will have a shared vision."

Love said if he had been in the room, instead of on a conference call, when the names of potential captains were being written on a board, "I probably would have walked out" when his name appeared.

More than the task force choosing him, he was excited that the task force was involved in the first place.

"It was more the process," he said. "In a text during a break to Steve or Jim (Furyk), we were like, `They're actually going to let us pick the captain.' I don't know what I expected when I walked in there. I thought that I'd be giving advice."

Busch crash leading to additional SAFER barriers at tracks

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 4:09pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) International Speedway Corp. is developing a plan for the installation of additional SAFER barriers at Daytona and Talladega, and will review the safety standards at its other racetracks.

The renewed focus announced Tuesday by ISC President John Saunders comes three days after NASCAR star Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a crash into a concrete wall at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch left a Daytona Beach, Florida, hospital on Tuesday and was transferred to another facility in North Carolina for further treatment.

Busch was injured Saturday in the season-opening Xfinity Series race when his car hit an interior wall that did not have a Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barrier.

After his accident, Daytona president Joie Chitwood III vowed to cover every inch of the speedway with SAFER barriers.

Daytona is owned by ISC, the sister company of NASCAR.

Saunders said ISC is "developing a significant plan" for more impact-absorbing technologies that will not be limited to SAFER barriers for Daytona and Talladega.

ISC will also immediately review Phoenix International Raceway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, as both tracks host NASCAR races in March.

"We will utilize all available tools to ensure the safety of the drivers and our fans. It will remain our top priority," Saunders said in a statement. "ISC is working very closely with NASCAR and industry experts to identify areas for additional safety protections."

SAFER barriers were one of the many safety initiatives that came about after Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001 in an accident on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

The soft walls were developed by Dr. Dean Sicking at the University of Nebraska, and although they debuted in 2002 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they are currently installed in some form at every track used by NASCAR's top series.

The barriers, a combination of steel and foam, cost about $500 a foot. But, the cost has proven worth it as the walls absorb the energy during impact and have repeatedly lessened injuries sustained to a driver.

Still, they have not been placed everywhere around the racetracks. Tracks only install SAFER barriers where NASCAR recommends to them they should be placed. NASCAR, meanwhile, cites evaluations of high-impact areas in deciding where the material should be placed.

There have been numerous hard hits over the years in areas that were not protected with SAFER barrier, and it often has been rectified by the time the series returns. In 2013, Denny Hamlin hit an unprotected section of wall in Fontana, California, that caused a fractured vertebra.

NASCAR had Auto Club Speedway install SAFER barrier where Hamlin hit before the series returned last year. Las Vegas Motor Speedway did the same following a hard Jeff Gordon hit in 2008.

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick hit the same wall Busch did in last year's Daytona 500, and was critical of the lack of SAFER barrier immediately following his own accident. He was pleased that Daytona was reacting after Busch's injury, but felt it was a bit late.

"The racetracks have to be proactive and they have to look ahead of an accident," Harvick said. "We know what fixes these walls, and that's to put a wall in front of them."

Even before ISC's announcement Tuesday that it would get additional SAFER barriers in at least two of its tracks, other facilities were being proactive in the wake of Busch's injury.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, host of this weekend's NASCAR races, reviewed its existing SAFER barriers on Monday and said it will enhance the existing barrier system before NASCAR arrives on Thursday.

The protective wall at the exit of Atlanta's pit road near Turn 1 will be extended, and a tire barrier will be added along the inside wall of Turn 4. The installations will add a total of 130 linear feet of additional protective barrier prior to this weekend's racing.

The track will consider future installation of additional SAFER barriers after Sunday's race.

Kentucky Speedway will add additional soft walls to the backstrech before NASCAR arrives in July.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway said it was already planning for additional SAFER barriers to be installed this year, but is now reviewing the plan to see if NASCAR will recommend even more soft walls.

David Ragan, Erik Jones to replace Kyle Busch at Atlanta

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:36pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) David Ragan will drive Kyle Busch's car in the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Atlanta, while 18-year-old Erik Jones will drive Busch's car in the Xfinity Series.

Busch broke his right leg and left foot when he crashed head-on into a concrete wall Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. He left the Florida hospital on Tuesday and was transferred to one in Charlotte for further treatment.

Ragan will drive the No. 18 Toyota for at least the next several weeks. The move was accommodated by Front Row Motorsports, the team Ragan currently drives for, and sponsor CSX.

Jones will drive the No. 54 Toyota in Saturday's race. Busch was driving the No. 54 in the Xfinity Series opener when he was injured.

Joe Gibbs Racing said additional lineup changes to the Xfinity car will be made moving forward. Jones currently runs a full season in the Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports and a partial Xfinity schedule for JGR in the No. 20.

Suarez scores 2, Barca beats City 2-1 in Champions League

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:20pm

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Luis Suarez finally emerged from Lionel Messi's shadow at Barcelona by scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Manchester City on Tuesday, putting the Spanish club within sight of the Champions League quarterfinals for an eighth straight year.

Suarez has found goals harder to come by since moving from Liverpool for $130 million last summer, but he rediscovered his scoring touch on his return to England with opportunist strikes in the 16th and 30th minutes. His goals capped a dominant first-half display by Barca in the last-16 first leg.

City improved considerably after the break, with Sergio Aguero reducing the deficit in the 69th minute, but the home side lost defender Gael Clichy to a red card and was thankful for Joe Hart's last-minute penalty save from Messi. With the goal at his mercy, the Argentina star headed the rebound wide to give City renewed hope heading into the second leg on March 18.

"If they lost the game 3-1, that is really difficult for (City)," Suarez said. "But 2-1 is a good result for them."

In the night's other first-leg match, Juventus beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in Turin.

Over-run and outplayed in the first half, City was lucky to go into the break only two goals behind as manager Manuel Pellegrini's decision to play a 4-4-2 formation backfired. Barcelona - with Messi to the fore - exploited the extra space in midfield to create chances at will, and Suarez was clinical.

With seven goals in 22 appearances for Barcelona, Suarez has been steady - if not spectacular - in his first season in Spain and this was the game that announced himself at the club.

Showing the instincts that helped him score 31 league goals for Liverpool last season, the reigning player of the year in England pounced on a weak headed clearance by City captain Vincent Kompany and swept a low left-foot finish past Hart.

Suarez was denied by the legs of Hart after another sweeping length-of-the-field move that had its origins with Messi nutmegging David Silva midway in the Barca half. But the striker didn't have to wait long for his second goal, as Messi drifted through two tackles and passed to Jordi Alba, whose delayed cross was glanced in by a sliding Suarez.

Heads were bowed as the City players left the field at halftime, while the "oles" from the small section of Barca supporters had begun in the 23rd minute.

"We couldn't put three passes together in the first half," Pellegrini said. "There was a bit of confusion but we managed to be calmer in the second (half)."

City took the game to Barca after the restart, passing up three great chances before Aguero ran onto a deft flick by Silva, burst between two defenders and shot high into the net from 12 meters.

Clichy had already been booked in the 59th for a foul on Ivan Rakitic when he went in late and high on Dani Alves in the 73rd. The Frenchman held his hands up but his protests didn't stop referee Felix Brych from showing a second yellow.

City lost 4-1 on aggregate to Barca at the same stage last season - and had a player sent off in both legs.

Fellow full back Pablo Zabaleta exacerbated Clichy's mistake by fouling Messi to give away the last-minute penalty, but Hart saved. Messi's fifth failed attempt from his last 10 penalties for club and country kept City in contention for the quarterfinals.

K-State apologizes to Kansas for court-storming incident

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 9:21am

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State athletic director John Currie promised to review the school's security procedures after an upset of eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night turned into a chaotic scene as students and fans rushed the court.

Currie also apologized in a lengthy statement to Kansas counterpart Sheahon Zenger, Jayhawks coach Bill Self and his team Tuesday morning, and said the school would review video of the incident along with law enforcement personnel to identify fans who became unruly.

"Although no one was hurt last night," Currie said, "we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident."

NCAA spokesman David Worlock said there are no national rules against court-storming, but that conferences and individual schools are expected to provide sufficient security.

The Big 12 said in a statement that it was reviewing the postgame celebration, and that "in accordance with conference policy, home team game management is responsible for the implementation of protocols to provide for the safety of all game participants, officials and fans."

Currie said that security formed a human barrier Tuesday night, just as they are instructed. But he said they were unable to get into position in time, even though the Wildcats led for several minutes at the conclusion of the game, and it had become apparent long before the final buzzer that a sea of humanity was ready to rush the floor.

As the court was engulfed, Self was nearly crushed against the scorer's table, and Kansas State coach Bruce Weber tried to shield him. At the other end of the floor, Jayhawks assistant Kurtis Townsend could be seen yanking away a student who was taunting several players.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor was even hip-checked by a student rushing onto the court. The video quickly went viral, and Kansas State police posted a picture of the student on Twitter on Tuesday morning and asked for the public's help in identifying him.

Throughout the game, students also engaged in profane chants directed at their rival.

"It's a ballgame," Self said. "It's not about chicken-winging somebody when the game's over. Hopefully, they can get that corrected. It's fine if you want to celebrate when you beat us, that's your business. That's fine. But at least it shouldn't put anybody at risk."

This is the second time this month that Kansas has had the court stormed after its defeat. A similar scene unfolded following a loss at Oklahoma State.

"While we are proud of the incredible atmosphere of Bramlage Coliseum and the passion of K-State students and fans, we are saddened by the insistence of some fans to sully the image of our great institution with audible profane chants," Currie said. "We will continue to work with our student leadership to provide a better example of sportsmanship for our audiences."

Beasley, Williams impress on 3rd day of combine workouts

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 6:45pm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley and Southern California defensive lineman Leonard Williams came up big winners Sunday in Indianapolis.

Florida State defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. was almost as good.

On the third day of workouts at the annual NFL scouting combine, Beasley pulled off an impressive double - posting the fastest 40-yard dash time of the day at 4.53 seconds and sharing the title of most bench press reps at 225 pounds with 35.

Beasley did that despite weighing in at 246 pounds.

The 302-pound Williams, who played defensive tackle in college, did nearly as well. Though he did not lift Sunday, Williams was clocked at 4.97 seconds in the 40 - the same time posted by Jameis Winston on Saturday and matching the fastest time turned in by an offensive lineman on Friday.

Edwards worked out in the afternoon and turned in a 4.84 in the 40, finishing 13th out of 55 linemen, and his 32 reps were tied for fifth.

Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton had 34 reps and ran a 5.64. The only lineman with more reps was Deon Simon of Northwestern State in Louisiana, who had 35.

Florida linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. ran a 4.60 and had 19 reps while Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory had a 4.64 and 24 reps.

Missouri defensive end Shane Ray had 21 reps but did not run. Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney ran a 4.66 and had just 16 reps, tied for the fewest among all linebackers who did the workout.

The defensive backs will work out Monday, which is the final day of the combine.

Westbrook leads Thunder past Nuggets without Durant

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 6:28pm

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook dominated again while Kevin Durant was sidelined by an injury.

Westbrook had 21 points and a career-high 17 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Denver Nuggets 119-94 on Sunday night.

Durant had a procedure on Sunday to replace a screw that was causing soreness in his surgically repaired right foot. The reigning NBA MVP is expected to return this season.

Westbrook, playing with two new starters acquired at the trade deadline, responded with an impressive performance. He had 10 assists in the second quarter and 12 in the first half.

He said the team needs Durant, and he wants the Thunder to be in a good position when he returns.

"Kevin wants us to win, and we're going out and taking care of business," Westbrook said.

Oklahoma City has won five of the past six games it has played without Durant. In those games, Westbrook is averaging 30.3 points, 9.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 48 percent.

After Sunday's game, coach Scott Brooks repeated a sentiment he shared way back on the Thunder's preseason media day - that he believes Westbrook is the best point guard in the league.

"Russell's at a high level, but he's been playing this way for a long time, for a lot of years, and every year, like all the special players do, they come back a little bit better," Brooks said.

Enes Kanter had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who have won six straight and eight of nine. Serge Ibaka added 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Westbrook rested late in the first quarter, and then put on a dazzling passing display. He returned with 8:40 left in the first half and his team leading 36-24. He recorded 10 assists over the last part of the half, and Oklahoma City's lead ballooned to 67-42 at the break.

According to STATS, Westbrook was the first player since Detroit's Brandon Jennings on Jan. 11, 2014, to register 10 or more assists in a single quarter.

Westbrook added five more assists in the third. He left for good with three minutes remaining in the period and the Thunder ahead 91-62. He also had eight rebounds in just 28 minutes.

Westbrook has meshed with Kanter early on. Five of his assists went to the 6-foot-11 center acquired from the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

"Just trying to do a better job of leading," Westbrook said. "My job is to integrate the new guys and lead them in the direction where we want to go."

Ty Lawson scored 17 points and Danilo Gallinari added 16 for Denver, which has lost seven of eight.

"Once again, it's the story of not playing a complete game," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "We played them even in the second half, but we couldn't overcome the deficit we put ourselves in in the first half. That's the difference in the game."

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Denver shot 28 percent in the first quarter to fall behind 36-18. ... Denver had three assists and five turnovers in the first 12 minutes. ... Denver was outrebounded 60-42.

Thunder: Kanter and F Kyle Singler started for the second straight game after being acquired at the trade deadline. They combined for 12 of Oklahoma City's 36 points in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City shot 60 percent in the first 12 minutes. ... Westbrook's streak of consecutive made free throws ended at 45.

STAT LINES

Westbrook's 12 assists in the first half were the most he's ever had in a half. He went without a turnover before the break, and finished with two.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Host Nets on Monday.

Thunder: Host Pacers on Tuesday.

Fans, former players attend public memorial for Dean Smith

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 3:39pm

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina has said its final farewell to Dean Smith.

The school offered one more tribute to the late Hall of Famer on Sunday, holding a public memorial service that gave thousands of fans, former players and coaching colleagues a chance to savor memories of a coach known for oncourt successes and innovations as well as off-court stances on civil-rights issues.

By all accounts, the coach would've been embarrassed by all the attention.

"If he could've anticipated this gathering today, I think there's a good chance he might've said, 'Don't do it,"' Rev. Robert Seymour, Smith's pastor, told the crowd. "But this gathering was not for Dean. This gathering was for us. He didn't need it, but we needed it."

Smith died two weeks ago at the age of 83. The family had held a private service last week, one attended by prominent names like Michael Jordan and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The school estimated between 9,000 and 10,000 attended Sunday's program lasting more than two hours in the campus arena bearing Smith's name. It capped a slow goodbye that had included pregame moments of silence at venues where the Tar Heels weren't even playing, tributes from opponents in games they were and even UNC running Smith's famed "Four Corners" offense to open Saturday's game against Georgia Tech.

Smith's pupil, current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, said he hoped Sunday would bring closure to the mourning but not the memories.

"Everybody has negatives, everybody has pluses," Williams said. "Coach Smith had more pluses than anybody I've ever known."

Williams then had the crowd point upward, a nod to Smith's "point to the passer" tradition of acknowledging the player who set up a basket.

Speakers told stories about how Smith fought having the Smith Center named after him, how he took his team to practice at prisons as a humane gesture to inmates, even how he sent handwritten notes to letterwinners after the birth of their children long after they had ever played for him.

"He coached you to be a better basketball player for four years," former 1970s walk-on Mickey Bell said. "He coached you to be a man for a lifetime."

Smith had kept a low profile in recent years amid health issues that had affected his memory. But his presence is still felt strongly around the program and attracted lines stretching around the arena more than an hour before fans could enter - a scene former Smith player Serge Zwikker documented with photos before entering the building.

Fans were also able to sign guest books with their memories of Smith once inside, books that will be presented to Smith's family.

Megan Porter, 24, drove in from West Virginia for the weekend and waited in line about 90 minutes to attend with her mother, sister and 5-year-old daughter Payton.

Gary Mattocks Jr., 31, of Raleigh, stopped to write about the memory of watching Smith's 1993 team win the NCAA championship and said it would have felt "disrespectful" if he hadn't come.

"I think for most everyone it's not about seeing this on television, we all have some kind of special reason deep inside of us (to attend)," said Greg Bullard, 39, a lawyer and UNC graduate who drove from Lumberton. "Dean is Carolina."

Other speakers included former players Phil Ford, Brad Daugherty and Antawn Jamison, who played on Smith's final team before his October 1997 retirement as the winningest coach in men's Division I history with 879 victories.

The service attracted former UNC players and coaches such as Larry Brown, Kenny Smith and J.R. Reid, as well as longtime Smith assistant and successor Bill Guthridge.

Other notable attendees included: Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and former UNC athletic director John Swofford; former Texas and UNC football coach Mack Brown; North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, an assistant to Smith on the gold medal-winning 1976 U.S. Olympic team, was to speak but was unable to attend due to illness. His son, current Hoyas coach John Thompson III, attended in his place.

Joey Logano gives Roger Penske another Daytona 500 win

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 2:05pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Soaked in booze but drinking a Coke, Joey Logano fretted over how he and his new bride would celebrate his most significant victory.

"I don't know how to party," the 24-year-old said with a sheepish grin.

Winning the Daytona 500 will provide him the ultimate chance to unleash.

More than two years after nearly washing out of one of NASCAR's top rides, Logano surged to the front of the sport with Sunday's win in "The Great American Race." The victory earned Logano an automatic berth in the championship race, and ended a rough week for NASCAR marked with multiple wrecks, the injury of a star driver and a headline-grabbing suspension.

Despite all the drama leading into the season-opening race, the event itself was one of the more anticlimactic in recent years despite white-knuckle racing over the final 50 miles. Logano surged ahead of the pack on a two-lap sprint to the finish and had command when a wreck behind him brought out a caution that allowed him to coast to the finish line.

Then the champagne spray began. After the victory lane party, Logano wasn't sure what he and new wife Brittany should do next. The couple was married in December.

"When I first started racing, I wasn't 21, so milk and cookies was my partying. Now I'm old enough," said Logano, who won $1.58 million for first place. "Usually Brittany and I sit down and re-watch the race."

Logano, who has spent seven years trying to live up to impossible expectations, raced to the biggest win of his career as he continued to reward Roger Penske for catapulting him into one of NASCAR's top stars. Nicknamed "Sliced Bread" when he broke into the Sprint Cup Series at 18 because so many predicted him to be the next big thing, Logano found himself searching for a new job after four underwhelming seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Penske snatched him up before the 2013 season, and the move jumpstarted his career. He made the field of four drivers in last year's championship finale, and was in contention until a poor late pit stop.

There's no better rebound from that disappointment than giving the "The Captain" his second Daytona 500 title. Penske, one of the most respected team owners in motorsports, also has a record 15 Indianapolis 500 wins.

After the win, Logano reflected on the uncertainty he had about his future at 22 years old after losing his place with Gibbs.

"Some of the emotions you go through, you start to think, `Man, am I going to have a job next year?' That's kind of hard as a race car driver," Logano said. "I poured all my eggs in one basket. You don't know what's going to happen.

"Who would ever guess three years down the road we'd be sitting here saying we're Daytona 500 champions? That's crazy. Life is a roller coaster."

Penske, who last year won the IndyCar championship with Will Power and the owners championship in NASCAR's Xfinity Series, said he never hesitated in hiring Logano.

"It's paid off in spades for us," said Penske. "This is just the start, I think, of a career. He's going to be a guy at the top for a long time."

He's the second youngest Daytona 500 winner in history, behind Trevor Bayne, who was 20 when he pulled off an upset victory in 2011.

Logano's win gave Ford a sweep of the opening weekend at Daytona. Tyler Reddick won Friday night's Truck Series race driving for Keselowski, and Ryan Reed won the Xfinity race on Saturday for Roush Fenway Racing.

Ford also won the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona in January with Chip Ganassi Racing.

It capped a week that began with all the attention on Jeff Gordon, who started in pole position in his final Daytona 500. The four-time NASCAR champion, who is retiring at the end of the year, led 77 of the first 100 laps and a race-high 87 laps in all.

But he was involved in the late accident that helped Logano win. Gordon finished 33rd.

It was a minor wreck, far less severe than the many crashes that occurred over the last eight days at Daytona. On Saturday, NASCAR star Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a crash during the Xfinity race that has him sidelined for several months.

At the same time he was in surgery, older brother Kurt Busch was before a NASCAR appeals officer fighting to have his indefinite suspension overturned. NASCAR punished him on Friday for an alleged domestic assault on his ex-girlfriend in September, and Kurt Busch spent Saturday in two phases of appeals.

It made Sunday the first Daytona 500 in 15 years without one of the Busch brothers in the field.

Gibbs unsure how long Kyle Busch will be sidelined

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 11:38am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joe Gibbs is unsure how long Kyle Busch will be sidelined with a broken right leg and left foot from a crash at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch had surgery on his right leg in Daytona after Saturday's crash in the Xfinity Series race. His foot will be examined when he returns to Charlotte, North Carolina, by specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, Gibbs said.

"Time or length, I haven't really, I don't have a good understanding with that from the doctors," the team owner said, referring to a timetable for recovery.

Busch missed Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500. Two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton drove his No. 18 Toyota in his debut in "The Great American Race."

Gibbs described Busch as in a light and joking mood before surgery. Joe Gibbs Racing management, several NASCAR officials, drivers and Busch's wife, Samantha, were at the hospital during surgery.

"I can tell you this, Kyle is already telling Sam, `Hey, I just want to get back to racing,"' Gibbs said. "He has a great spirit about that."

The couple tweeted support for Crafton just before the race started Sunday, with Samantha Busch sharing a picture of the couple with one of their small dogs, a Pomeranian Yorkie named Lucy.

"Would rather b driving than watching the (hash)Daytona500 but pulling 4 (at)Matt-Crafton and the No. 18 (at)mmschocolate team," the driver said. In his wife's photo, he wore a spotted hospital gown.

Busch sustained a compound fracture to his lower right leg and broke a bone in the middle of his left foot in the crash with eight laps remaining. His car slammed head-on into an interior wall that did not have an energy-absorbing barrier.

The injury is similar but not as severe as Tony Stewart's from an August 2013 sprint car crash. Stewart sustained a double compound fracture and missed the final 15 races of that year. He was not cleared to get in a race car until almost six months after the accident. Stewart has also had four operations on his leg.

Gibbs wasn't sure what's next for Busch.

"The lower part of his leg is all taken care of and we'll have Dr. Anderson and his group look at the foot," Gibbs said. "As far as going back to Charlotte, we are on standby with the plane. Whenever he feels like he can travel, we'll get him back to Charlotte."

Meanwhile, Gibbs was not angry at the lack of SAFER barrier in the wall that Busch hit on Saturday night. Following the accident, track president Joie Chitwood promised to cover every inch of the speedway with the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers beginning Monday.

Chitwood had crews placing tire barriers in front of the wall that Busch hit late Saturday night to give added protection before the Daytona 500.

Reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick felt the gesture was a bit too late. Harvick hit the same wall in last year's Daytona 500 and was critical then of the lack of SAFER barrier.

"Unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart, and there was no reaction," Harvick said. "Now there's a reaction from the race track. So hopefully there is a lesson learned. The race tracks have to be proactive and they have to look ahead. We know what fixes these walls, and that's to put a wall in front of them."

He called the absence of the polarizing Busch from the Daytona 500 "a big hit for everybody in this race." But Harvick didn't think the pace will be any different on Sunday.

"We're going to tear up some race cars today just because that's how you race here," Harvick said. "The cars aren't making the mistakes, it's the drivers. You are going to have to be aggressive. I don't see that changing with what's on the line today to win the Daytona 500. Everybody is going to push and shove and do what they have to do to put themselves in position to win."

Kings spoil Sharks outdoor party with 2-1 victory

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 10:08pm

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Marian Gaborik scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Los Angeles Kings spoiled San Jose's outdoor party with a 2-1 victory over the Sharks on Saturday night.

Kyle Clifford also scored and Jonathan Quick made 31 saves as the Kings won their seventh straight game and dealt even more heartbreak to their Northern California rivals after knocking San Jose out of the playoffs the past two seasons.

Gaborik silenced an enthusiastic crowd of 70,205 just over 4 minutes into the third period when he took the puck away from Brent Burns in the neutral zone and skated in before beating Antti Niemi with a shot from the top of the circle.

The Sharks were unable to get the equalizer against Quick to send most of the fans in the third largest crowd ever to watch an NHL game home unhappy on a night meant to celebrate hockey's success in Northern California.

Burns scored the lone goal for the Sharks, who have lost six of eight games to put their 10-season streak of playoff appearances in jeopardy. Niemi made 27 saves.

As much as this was a spectacle, it also was an important contest in the Western Conference playoff race. With the win, the Kings moved from out of playoff position into third place in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles is tied with Calgary and San Jose with 68 points but has played fewer games than both those teams.

The second outdoor game in California was full of pomp and circumstance with John Fogerty performing in the first intermission and Melissa Etheridge in the second.

The ice rink was surrounded by designs of the topography or Northern California with designs of mountains, plants, hills and bodies of water including numerous shark fins for a special touch.

The ice was a bit choppier than the usual indoor variety is, forcing both teams to simplify their games a bit. But the game-time temperature was 57 degrees, nearly twice the average of the previous 14 outdoor games.

The Kings did the better job of dealing with the surroundings early and controlled the play for most of the first period, getting the first goal less than 3 minutes in when Clifford deflected a point shot by Jake Muzzin past Niemi.

The Sharks found their legs late in the period and tied it with just over a minute left when Burns beat Quick with a wrist shot from the boards after a faceoff win by Tommy Wingels. Quick got a piece of the shot but it wasn't enough as he appeared to have trouble seeing the puck.

The Sharks had plenty of chances in the second period but couldn't get anything past Quick. Couture had two of the best opportunities but had a shot blocked by Matt Greene's stick with an open net on the power play, and then hit the post in the closing minute.

NOTES: The biggest attendance at an outdoor NHL game came last year at Michigan Stadium with 105,941 fans. The first Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008 is second with 71,217. ... Road teams improved to 11-3-1 in NHL outdoor games. The Kings lost their home outdoor game last year at Dodger Stadium 3-0 to Anaheim. ... The Sharks have lost six straight home games, matching their longest skid since an eight-gamer in the 1994-95 season. ... The Sharks became the 19th franchise to play an outdoor game.

Kurt Busch loses final appeal, stays suspended indefinitely

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 7:42pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Kurt Busch remains suspended and out of the Daytona 500.

A final appeals officer upheld NASCAR's suspension Saturday night. Gulfstream President Bryan Moss made the decision, ending Busch's already-slim hopes of racing Sunday in the season opener.

"We are unhappy with the latest decision to deny our re-appeal, but we will continue to exhaust every procedural and legal remedy we have available to us until Kurt Busch is vindicated," said Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin. "Along the way we intend to continue to call attention to the facts and witnesses that will shed light on Ms. (Patricia) Driscoll's true character, motivations and history."

The decision means both Busch brothers are out of the "Great American Race" for the first time since 2000. Younger brother Kyle was ruled out with a broken right leg and broken left foot sustained in a harrowing crash Saturday in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Kurt Busch was suspended indefinitely Friday after a Delaware judge said the 2004 champion almost surely choked and beat his former girlfriend, Driscoll, last fall at Dover International Speedway.

A three-judge panel denied his first appeal Saturday. He had one final chance to plead his case to Moss, who is in his first year as NASCAR'S final appeals officer.

"The decision of the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer is final and binding on all parties," NASCAR said in a statement. "Kurt Busch now has exhausted his appeal options under the NASCAR rulebook, and the indefinite suspension remains in effect. He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice."

Regan Smith will replace Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Chevrolet on Sunday.

Chevrolet suspended its relationship with Busch shortly after the suspension.

Busch represented himself in the first appeals hearing at NASCAR headquarters, located across the street from Daytona International Speedway. Jim Cassidy, senior vice president of racing operations, represented NASCAR. The panelists were former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks, former driver Lyn St. James and Kevin Whitaker, operator of Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.

Following the first hearing, Busch exited NASCAR's office building without comment. He climbed into a waiting SUV that sped off, squealing its tires.

He returned a few hours later for another plea.

Kyle, meanwhile, was hospitalized at nearby Halifax Health. He was hurt when his car slammed head-on into an interior wall that did not have an energy-absorbing SAFER barrier. He was only able to climb halfway through his window and was pointing to his legs when rescue personnel arrived.

Track President Joie Chitwood III took the blame, saying Daytona failed in not having the soft walls and will start installing them next week "on every inch of our property."

With Kyle sidelined indefinitely, Joe Gibbs Racing replaced him in the No. 18 Toyota with two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton.

Kurt has been front and center since arriving at Daytona on Feb. 12.

A judge granted Driscoll's request for the no-contact order Monday, and three days later, Busch's legal team asked for an appeal on the grounds it had new evidence to present.

Kurt has maintained he did not assault Driscoll, but merely cupped her face as he requested her to leave his motorhome.

But the judge saw things differently, and NASCAR suspended Busch. It was the third suspension of the 36-year-old driver's career.

It's unclear what SHR will do beyond Daytona. Busch's car is funded out of pocket by team co-owner Gene Haas, who hand-picked the former champion to drive a car adorned with Haas' machine tools building company. He wanted Busch because he believed Busch could get the car to victory lane.

Haas has not commented since the Friday suspension, and he may not be willing to pay for the car if Busch is not behind the wheel.

"We haven't spoken about anything beyond that," SHR executive vice president Brett Frood said.

Smith drove co-owner Tony Stewart's No. 14 car last season at Watkins Glen after Stewart hit and killed a fellow driver who got out of his car in a short-track race. Smith, who has one Cup victory, also filled in two races in 2012 while Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from a concussion.

"He's a good fit, he's in the family and he'll get us through this week," SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said. "It's a shame we are going through this, but it's what we are dealt. We'll make the best of it and see where it goes from here."

Kyle Busch injured in Xfinity Series race at Daytona

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 3:58pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Kyle Busch was taken to a hospital following a scary crash late in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch's No. 54 Toyota shot straight through the frontstretch and slammed head-first into an interior wall. He could not get out of the car and pointed to his right leg. He was on the ground for several minutes and was in visible pain as he grabbed his leg.

Busch was strapped to a stretcher with his right leg wrapped in a splint. He was on a stretcher as he was loaded into the ambulance.

Busch's pregnant wife, Samantha, was in tears as she dashed through the garage to reach her husband.

If Busch is seriously injured, he could sit out the Daytona 500 on Sunday. He qualified fourth driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. The race could go on without either Busch brother in the race following the suspension of older brother Kurt Busch.

Kyle Busch's car hit a portion of the wall that was not covered in the protective SAFER barrier. NASCAR drivers criticized the track on Twitter for not having the safety barriers on the concrete wall.

"Man I hope (at)KyleBusch is alright... It's beyond me why we don't have soft walls everywhere," six-time champion Jimmie Johnson tweeted.

"I'm genuinely furious right now. Any wall in any of the top 3 series without safer barriers is INEXCUSABLE. It's 2015," wrote Regan Smith.

Xfinity Series driver Ty Dillon said after the race no driver should have any "crazy, bad" injuries because a track did not have additional SAFER barriers.

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