Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick agree to five-year contract extension
NASCAR's most popular driver will stay with the most dominant race team at least through 2017. Hendrick Motorsports announced a five-year contract extension with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend trying to clinch his first berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in three years.
"It's great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance," said Earnhardt, who had another year left on the original contract that began in 2008. "Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn't any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, 'Yeah, let's do it.'"
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After missing the Chase the last two seasons, Earnhardt's poised to get back into the 12-driver field this year. Currently ranked ninth in the standings, Earnhardt can clinch a berth in the field if he widens his margin to 49 points over the 11th-place driver on Sunday night. He's 39 points ahead of 11th-place driver Brad Keselowski.
Earnhardt talked last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway about the importance of making the Chase so he can avoid another year of harsh criticism. But he insisted simply making the 10-race championship series isn't enough.
"On a personal level, I don't really know how much it matters to me. Making the Chase is just an afterthought," Earnhardt said at Bristol. "I really want to win a championship. Making the Chase is great and all, but as a person, you want to be a champion. Making the Chase doesn't really make you feel better at the end of the season. If you don't win the championship, you're really disappointed."
Lefty leaning toward using belly putter
Phil Mickelson threw in a surprise Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a belly putter in his golf bag, saying he was likely to become the next in a growing list of players to see if it will help make more putts. "It's awkward to me," Mickelson said after his pro-am round at the TPC Boston. "But so many guys have had success with it that I thought I'd give it a try."
The longer putters have been getting more attention this year, especially after Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with one at the PGA Championship.
Mickelson, once renowned for a silky putting stroke, has been struggling the past several years on shorter distances. Not only has he been a mentor to Bradley this year, Mickelson played with the 25-year-old rookie last week at The Barclays and began grilling him about a putter in which the end of the grip anchors into the stomach.
Mickelson had one built to similar specifications as Bradley and received his new toy Monday. Then he called Bradley over the last few days to ask questions how to use it.
So it's a rookie teaching a four-time major champion?
"Yeah, it is funny," Mickelson said. "You can always learn, and he putts it extremely well, and it rolls so nicely off the face."
It didn't work out for him during the pro-am when Mickelson took 34 putts, including 18 on his opening nine. "I was a little shady with it on the front nine, but a little bit better with it on the back," he said. "Look, I don't mind trying new things. I've hit two drivers and no drivers, and I don't mind trying something different. We'll see."
Holmes doing well after brain surgery
Former University of Kentucky star J.B. Holmes, who will miss the Deutsche Bank Championship, reportedly had successful brain surgery Thursday. In an email to the Golf Channel's Ryan Ballengee, Holmes' agent Terry Reilly said, "There was significant pressure on the brain that they were able to relieve. Several days of recuperation at Johns Hopkins and then Holmes will head home to fully recuperate."
The surgery, performed by Dr. George Jallo, reportedly relieved pressure to the 29-year-old's cerebellum and brain stem. It is expected that Holmes will be able to return to competition in about three months.
Riggs earns national soccer honor
UK men's soccer sophomore Tyler Riggs was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America National Player of the Week. Riggs, a St. Xavier graduate, scored two game-winning goals for the Wildcats last week. No. 21 Kentucky (2-0-0) will play Wright State at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the University of Kentucky Invitational at the UK Soccer Complex.
■ Kentucky's women's soccer team (3-0-0) will play Central Michigan at 5 p.m. Friday in the Courtyard by Marriott Airport Cardinal Classic at Louisville. Senior captain Kelsey Hunyadi leads Kentucky offensively with three goals in three games.
■ The Kentucky volleyball team will host the Kentucky Classic on Friday and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum. Ohio and Virginia Tech get the round-robin tournament started at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by a matchup between the Wildcats (2-2) and Western Kentucky (3-0).
■ Kentucky's cross country team opens its season on Friday at the Belmont-Vanderbilt Opener in Nashville. Other teams expected to compete in addition to the hosts are Austin Peay, Brescia, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, Tennessee, Tennessee-Martin and Middle Tennessee.
See You at Peelers seeks new streak
See You At Peelers will be out to start a new winning streak. A week after losing for the first time in 23 races, the 3-year-old pacing filly was entered Sunday at Tioga Downs in upstate New York. See You At Peelers was a perfect 22-0 before finishing sixth behind Idyllic in the Nadia Lobell Stakes at The Meadows in Washington, Pa., on Monday. The winning streak was harness racing's fourth longest in the United States over the past 20 years. See You At Peelers earned $1.48 million during the streak. "You always know it's going to happen, but of course, I'm disappointed," driver Marcus Johansson said. "I'm disappointed for the fans. A lot of them showed up to root for her. She'll come back. She's a world champion, and she's the best horse in the country. I'll stand by that."
Desormeaux faces charges in New York
Police said three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux tried to run over a traffic cop. Saratoga Springs, N.Y., police said the 41-year-old Desormeaux was in his 2003 Porsche Carrera at Saratoga Race Course about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when he struck the officer. Police did not release the officer's condition. Desormeaux was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. He posted $500 bail. He was scheduled to ride in one race Thursday.
■ Jockey Mike Smith pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor DUI charges resulting from his July 20 arrest hours after winning the opening-day stakes race at Del Mar in California.
Track and field
Americans piling up golds at worlds
For nearly three decades, Mary Slaney owned this territory. No American had been able to equal her success at 1,500 meters at the world championships. Now there's Jenny Barringer Simpson.
With one powerful surge on the home stretch, Simpson looked every bit as dominant as Slaney once was, winning on a marvelous night for the Americans highlighted by three gold medals in a 30-minute stretch. Simpson is the first American to win the world title in the 1,500 since Slaney — Decker back then — in 1983.
Jesse Williams started the winning spree by capturing the high jump, the first American to do so since Charles Austin in 1991. Simpson soon followed with the unexpected win and Lashinda Demus completed the night with victory in the 400 hurdles.
Other winners Thursday included Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya (steeplechase), David Greene of Britain (400 hurdles) and Olha Saladuha of Ukraine (triple jump).
The last word
Luke Fickell, the successor to sweater-vested Jim Tressel, on what he'll be wearing during Ohio State's football opener:
"Whatever my wife lays out."