Other Sports

Sports briefs: March 24

Auto racing

Earnhardt downplays his Bristol radio rant

Dale Earnhardt Jr. blamed his profanity-laced rant at Bristol Motor Speedway on frustration from a speeding penalty.

And being mad in the car, he figured, is a good thing.

"You're going to have days where you get a little hot on the radio and I haven't really been hot on the radio in a long, long time," Earnhardt said Tuesday during a test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Earnhardt, in the midst of a 62-race winless streak, had just cracked the top five in Sunday's race when NASCAR flagged him for speeding on pit road. He vented over his radio for several minutes, and snapped at crew chief Lance McGrew's attempt to calm him down.

Some die-hard listeners to Earnhardt's in-race radio speculated that Earnhardt was angry at McGrew, who at one point urged Earnhardt not to "lay down" the rest of the race — instructions that infuriated NASCAR's most popular driver.

Earnhardt quickly dismissed a potential driver-crew chief rift.

"When we're running pretty good and you can almost reach that top-five, or see yourself almost in a position to get a win, and it gets snapped away from you that quick, man, it's hard to bite your tongue," Earnhardt said. "Running my mouth, that's my pop-off valve. It gives me a little bit of relief so I could get back to what I was doing. It's open for interpretation, I guess.

"Lance handled it pretty good. I was at no point mad at him. We haven't really gotten into it since we started working together over anything. So we've got a pretty good balance between our personalities to keep us from doing that."

The penalty dropped Earnhardt to 26th, but he rallied to finish seventh and moved up five spots in the standings.

Allgaier gets seat at Sprint Cup test

Justin Allgaier participated in his first official Sprint Cup series test and hoped Tuesday's session will lead to an upcoming race at NASCAR's top level. Penske Racing brought four cars to the two-day test at Charlotte Motor Speedway to give Allgaier seat time. The 23-year-old is coming off his first NASCAR victory, a win in the Nationwide Series last weekend at Bristol.

Drivers are permitted to participate in two NASCAR-approved test sessions before committing to entering a Cup race.

"Obviously when I started at Penske Racing my goal was to reach the Cup level, so for me, this is a good way to come out and get some laps and see what these cars drive like," said the second-year Penske driver. "Hopefully we can help out the other guys. I think that's the biggest thing — how do we benefit all three of our Cup teams and get me some experience at the same time? This is the easiest way to do it."

Penske fields Cup cars for Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr.

NASCAR moving closer to fuel injection

NASCAR is still on target to move to fuel injection engines in 2011. NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said teams have been given parameters to use when testing fuel injection. Fuel injection is being explored in an effort to make stock cars more fuel efficient. The current cars have used carburetors since the 1980s, and the carburetor has little application to what is currently sold on showroom floors.

Horse racing

Ranger Heartley probable for Lane's End

The list of probable starters for Saturday's Grade II Lane's End Stakes grew with the addition of the John Sadler-trained Ranger Heartley. Ranger Heartley has four wins in 10 starts, each time leading all the way. He most recently was fifth in the El Camino Real Derby, beaten less than four lengths by Connemara, who also is expected for the Lane's End. Other probable starters include Chief Counsel, who has a win, two seconds, and two thirds in five starts, and D. Wayne Lukas trainee Northern Giant, who was third in the Risen Star, beaten less than two lengths.

Outdoors

More Americans went fishing last year

At a time when the economy has shaken big-time sports from the PGA to the NFL, the low-key pastime of fishing has enjoyed a quiet resurgence. A pair of recent studies indicate that families have been turning to fishing as a good way to spend time together without wrecking the household budget. A report commissioned by The Outdoor Foundation found that, in a decade during which the number of anglers generally dropped, 2009 bucked the trend and saw an increase of 1.6 percent or 630,000 participants. A separate study found one of the largest bumps since the 1970s in fishing license purchases, based on a 12-state index.

Colleges

U of L baseball rallies to beat Evansville

Louisville (18-2) scored two runs in the top of the ninth, then right-hander Neil Holland shut down Evansville in the bottom of the ninth and the Cardinals won 8-7 on the road.

Trailing 7-6 entering the ninth, Louisville scored two runs on Evansville closer Tom Heithhoff. After leading off with a single, Phil Wunderlich scored on a double by Zak Wasserman. Wasserman, who moved to third on the throw home following his double, scored on a squeeze bunt single by Drew Haynes.

Holland, an Owensboro Catholic graduate, improved to 3-0. In 20 innings of relief this season, Holland has allowed one earned run on four hits with 23 strikeouts. He leads the team with four saves and has a 0.45 ERA.

Molly Johnson gave Kentucky's softball team the lead with a solo home run in the top of the 10th, but Tennessee rallied with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the first game of a doubleheader, 4-3, in Knoxville. Johnson's home run gave her 31 for her career, tying her with Brooke Marnitz for the school record.

In the second game, three errors led the Wildcats (19-12, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) to a 7-1 loss.

Etc.

Mancuso wins 11th national skiing title

Julia Mancuso won the giant slalom in the U.S. alpine skiing championships at Wilmington, N.Y., on Tuesday, becoming the most accomplished skier at nationals and taking her fourth title in the discipline. Mancuso beat Laurenne Ross, finishing in 2 minutes, 7.52 seconds to take her 11th national title in all. That moved her ahead of Andrea Mead Lawrence for the most titles of any American and broke a record that stood for 55 years.

■ Olympic silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian skated a flawless and elegant short program to take the lead in the pairs competition at the world figure skating championships on Tuesday at Turin, Italy. Pang and Tong earned a season-best 75.28 points for their short program. The 2006 world champions are two points ahead of Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov. U.S. champions Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett are in sixth place.

The last word

Tim Tebow has been bombarded by critics for his elongated throwing motion and limited time in a traditional NFL-style offense. But at Florida's pro day last week, he showed off a new, quicker release that left many coaches and scouts impressed. Count New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick among them.

"I think it's obvious that in the last six weeks he's had some major changes. My sense of Tim Tebow is if you asked him to play nose tackle, he'd play nose."

And what type of nose tackle would he make?

"I think he'd be one of the faster ones," Belichick joked.

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