Kenseth wins pole for NASCAR's first Chase race
The opening round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship won't decide the NASCAR champion. What it could do, though, is separate the contenders from the pretenders.
"It's so important not to have a bad day in that first race," said five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. "We'll have a pretty good idea of who will be strong and who won't right out of the gate."
The 10-race Chase opens Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway with Matt Kenseth, ranked fourth in the 12-driver field, starting from the pole. It's a prime piece of real estate considering track position is so critical these days. "I think it is always important and starting up front and having a good pit stall is nice," Kenseth said. "Hopefully, you get a good start and get bonus points and try to keep up with the track a little better."
Kenseth had the fastest qualifying lap with a speed of 183.243 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford. It easily held off Paul Menard, who turned a lap at 183.125 in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch, who qualified third at 183.032 in a Penske Racing Dodge. It's just the sixth pole in 12 full seasons for Kenseth, and second this year.
"My cars have just been fast and driving really good," Kenseth said. "I have always tried really hard. I have probably done a little better job at not overdriving the car. That has been a fault of mine in qualifying in the past, overdriving and driving the corner too hard and messing up the rest of the corner.
"Back in the day when it was easier to pass it probably wasn't as important to us as it is today. Maybe I am a little better at it, but the main thing is the cars have been really fast."
Busch, winner of the inaugural 2004 Chase, was pleased to qualify third.
"It was a great qualifying effort for us. We feel like getting off to a strong start in the Chase is important, and it starts with qualifying," Busch said. "We just can't get ahead of ourselves. Each opportunity that we're out on the track, we have to maximize."
Chase drivers took spots four through six, as Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski kept Kenseth in sight. Points co-leader Kyle Busch was ninth, Johnson qualified 12th, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. 19th. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon was 23rd, Tony Stewart qualified 26th and Denny Hamlin was 27th.
Kevin Harvick was the lowest qualifying Chase driver at 30th.
Keselowski cruises in Nationwide race
Brad Keselowski used a dominating run Saturday to win the Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. Keselowski capitalized on Carl Edwards running out of gas on pit road to grab a sizable lead that was never challenged. He beat Edwards to the finish line by 8.568 seconds for his third victory of the season.
It was the first win for the defending Nationwide champion since his July victory at Indianapolis. He broke his ankle in a crash while testing at Road Atlanta four days after that win, and sat out three scheduled races as he healed.
What does the win do for his chances Sunday? "There's always the confidence, that's the biggest thing," Keselowski said.
High school football
Covington Catholic holds off Beechwood
Covington Catholic, ranked seventh in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, rallied from a 14-13 halftime deficit to defeat No. 15 Beechwood 40-28 on Saturday afternoon.
Senior running back Gabe Gray led the way for the host Colonels (4-1). Gray ran for 279 yards on 29 carries and scored four touchdowns. Gage Erdman had two TD runs for Beechwood (3-1).
Cross country teams sweep Vols
The University of Kentucky men's and women's cross country teams swept meets at Tennessee on Saturday. UK junior Luis Orta won the men's race in 25 minutes, 7.34 seconds, the fourth-fastest time on an 8,000-meter course in the Southeastern Conference this season. Kentucky finished with 23 points. Tennessee had 36. The victory was the second this season for Orta, a native of Caracas, Venezuela. Junior Chelsea Oswald led the UK women to their 26-33 victory with a second-place finish, covering 5,000 meters in 18:13.22. The Wildcats return to action in two weeks at the Greater Louisville Invitational.
■ A strong second-round team score of 3-under par put Kentucky's men's golf team atop the leader board after the first day of the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational at the University Club of Kentucky. The Wildcats had shot 12-over par in the first round earlier Saturday.
"I am proud of the way we bounced back today from a poor first round," UK Coach Brian Craig said. "The afternoon round was a small glimpse of what this team is capable of doing."
UK was led by sophomore Cody Martin, who is in third place at 1-under par. Chase Parker is tied for fifth at 1 over.
Jug draws smallest field since 1980
A field of 12 was drawn Saturday for Thursday's 66th annual Little Brown Jug harness race for 3-year-old pacers at Delaware, Ohio. The 12 horses — the smallest field since 1980 — will be divided into two $84,288 eliminations, with the first four finishers advancing to the $252,864 finals. If a race-off is necessary, the three-horse event would go for $105,360. Big Bad John was named the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the first elimination. Roll With Joe, winner of the $1 million Meadowlands Pace, is the 2-1 choice in the second elimination.
■ Winter Memories rallied relentlessly to beat Theyskens' Theory by a neck in the $250,000 Garden City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf at Belmont Park. Trapped behind a wall of horses in the stretch, Winter Memories and jockey Javier Castellano angled to the far outside and took off. She earned her sixth win in eight starts for trainer Jimmy Toner.
Basketball Hall of Famer Gavitt dies
Dave Gavitt, one of basketball's most influential leaders the last three decades, has died. He was 73. His death Friday night after a long illness was confirmed by his family Saturday. He died in a hospital near his hometown of Rumford, R.I.
Mr. Gavitt was a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the first commissioner of the Big East Conference. He led Providence to the Final Four in 1973 and started the Big East offices there in 1979. He was selected to coach the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but the United States boycotted the Moscow Games. Gavitt was president of USA Basketball and oversaw the introduction of NBA players onto the U.S. Olympic roster, including the Dream Team at the 1992 Games.
Mr. Gavitt was the key force in the forming of the Big East Conference, and he served as its first commissioner from 1979 until 1990. He served on the NCAA's Division I Basketball Committee from 1980-84 and was its chairman from 1982-84 when the tournament expanded to 64 teams and the first of its contracts with CBS was negotiated.
When he left the Big East, Mr. Gavitt joined the Boston Celtics front office as a vice president, succeeding Red Auerbach in running the franchise. He was fired in 1994.
The last word
Former NFL defensive star turned analyst Warren Sapp on Showtime's Inside the NFL:
"The Pittsburgh Steelers, I have three things (to say about them): old, slow and it's over. Hines Ward ... Mercedes Sapp (his 13-year-old daughter) can cover Hines Ward right now."