Other Sports

Sports briefs: May 21

NASCAR

Earnhardt Jr. determined to win Sprint Showdown

Dale Earnhardt Jr. promises an all-out assault on Saturday's Sprint Showdown.

Earnhardt couldn't be blamed if he took a conservative approach to the qualifying race, which will transfer the top two finishers into the main event that follows, the Sprint All-Star Race. All he has to do is have a car in raceable condition to take advantage of the fan vote, which fills the last position in the All-Star Race.

"The opportunity for us to win the fan vote is definitely in the back of my mind, but I don't think it will affect me at all in how I drive the race," Earnhardt told Sporting News on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "If we're sitting there in the second segment running fifth, I promise you that's all I can get out of it at that time."

Anyone who doesn't think Earnhardt would win the fan vote hasn't been following stock car racing for the past decade. Earnhardt has won most popular driver honors for the past eight years, and he's a lock for the fan vote, should he need it.

"I would love to get into the All-Star outright," Earnhardt said. "I've paid attention for the last several months, and I know how much the fans have put into voting for me. And should we win the fan vote, it would be because of everything that they did.

"But I think they would agree with me, that they would like to see me win and go in outright, and that's what I'm going to try to do. I know there's tough competition in that race, but we're going in and we're running hard and taking all the risks."

Kyle Busch on pole for All-Star race

Kyle Busch's success in nearly every level of NASCAR hasn't included the All-Star race. A nearly flawless qualifying performance Friday night puts him in good position of collecting that $1 million payday for the first time. Busch, who was fastest in practice earlier in the day, completed the unique three-lap qualifying that included a mandatory four-tire pit stop in 1 minute, 59.19 seconds to earn the pole for Saturday's race.

Now can he finally break through in NASCAR's richest event?

"This race, everybody says it suits Kyle Busch," he said. "We all know why: We can go fast ... and you either bring back the steering wheel or the check. Unfortunately, I've been very successful in bringing back the steering wheel."

Busch has won 96 races in NASCAR's top three divisions, but has had little success in the non-points All-Star event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He's failed to finish in four of his five starts with one top-10 finish.

But the No. 18 Toyota was the fastest all day Friday. Add a friendly qualifying draw in which he went last as the track cooled and Busch knocked Clint Bowyer (1:59.67) to the outside of the front row for the 100-lap shootout. Greg Biffle qualified third, followed by Carl Edwards and Mark Martin.

"That Kyle Busch is a pain in everybody's butt, isn't he?" Bowyer said, smiling. "He's pretty good."

Horse racing

Ready's Rocket going for Churchill record

Ready's Rocket, an 8-year-old gelded son of More Than Ready, will try to become the first horse to win nine races at Churchill Downs on Saturday in the second race on the card.

Last May, Ready's Rocket became the seventh horse to win eight times at Churchill Downs since 1976, which is the first year detailed information was gathered by Equibase.

Trainer Tim Glyshaw is hopeful Ready's Rocket finally can capture his ninth Churchill Downs win after being unsuccessful in three previous attempts. "He's probably lost a step and isn't as fast as he used to be," Glyshaw said. "But he's training well, likes Churchill, and still enjoys his job."

Saturday's start, which will be the 62nd of Ready's Rocket's career and 23rd at Churchill Downs, will be his first outing since finishing fourth in a 5-furlong race Feb. 23 at Delta Downs. The three-month break was by design according to Glyshaw, who said, "It was just a matter of little odds and ends. It was nothing major; it just goes with being an 8-year-old."

The most distinguished member of Churchill Downs' eight-win club is Bet On Sunshine, a multiple-graded stakes winner who recorded back-to-back victories in the 2000 and 2001 Aristides. Other eight-time winners at Churchill Downs and the years they raced there are Athenium (1991-94), Canela (2005-10), Crown Lease (1991-95), Lord Rusty (1993-2000) and Maxxed (1995-98).

College basketball

WKU, VCU to play two-game series

Western Kentucky announced the men's basketball team will host the first game of a two-game series with Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 23. The Hilltoppers and Rams will play in Richmond, Va., in 2012. Virginia Commonwealth made a surprise run to the Final Four last season and lost to Butler in the semifinals.

■ The Hilltoppers' Brandon Peters, who averaged 6.5 points and 1.9 assists as a freshman before being declared academically ineligible, will leave the program after failing to regain his eligibility, the College Heights Herald reported.

■ Western Kentucky women's coach Mary Taylor Cowles announced the signing of two players — forward Tyisha Amos (Forest, Miss.) and point guard Ileana Johnson (Flagstaff, Ariz.). Amos averaged 14.1 points and 8.9 rebounds last season. Johnson, who earned the Arizona Daily Sun's Girls Basketball Player-of-the-Year Award for the third straight season, averaged 18 points and four assists for her career.

Hockey

Boogaard died of alcohol, oxycodone mix

The death of New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was an accident, due to a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkiller oxycodone. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner in Minnesota announced Boogaard's cause of death Friday, saying it was unclear exactly when the 28-year-old died. Boogaard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment last Friday, five months after he sustained a season-ending concussion with the New York Rangers.

The medical examiner said no private data on Boogaard would be released, but a statement his family issued through the National Hockey League Players' Association indicated the 6-foot-7 Boogaard had been struggling with pain and addiction.

"After repeated courageous attempts at rehabilitation and with the full support of the New York Rangers, the NHLPA and the NHL, Derek had been showing tremendous improvement but was ultimately unable to beat this opponent," the family said.

WNBA

Former player Dydek suffers heart attack

Former WNBA player Margo Dydek suffered a heart attack and is in a medically induced coma in a Brisbane, Australia, hospital.

Dydek, 37, who is pregnant with her third child, had been working as a coach for the Northside Wizards in the Queensland Basketball League. She was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Utah Starzz. The 7-foot-2 Dydek was once said to be the tallest active professional female basketball player in the world.

The last word

Kenny Perry, when asked about Tiger Woods' faltering golf game by Robert Lusetich of Foxsports.com, wondered if Woods' workout regimen might be contributing to his knee problems:

"Tiger goes over the top when he does stuff. When he works out, he works out religiously; whatever he does, he's gung-ho. It's amazing because that's what made him such a great player, but maybe he's overdone it. ... When he was playing great golf, he was wiry, thin, loose and quick; he had a lot of speed. Now he's so thick, he looks like a defensive back in the NFL, but his legs are still little. So is his lower body struggling to support his heavier, muscular upper body? I don't know, maybe it is."

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