Grubb back in Victory Lane — this time with Hamlin
Darian Grubb hasn't missed a beat since he was unceremoniously fired by Tony Stewart. The crew chief made yet another trip to Victory Lane on Sunday when he guided Denny Hamlin to a win at Phoenix in just their second race together. Dating back to last season, Grubb has won six of the last 12 races.
Yet he found himself out of work a week after leading Stewart to last season's championship. Stewart won five of the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship races to win the title, but the driver-owner had made up his mind midway through the Chase to replace Grubb at the end of the season.
Grubb didn't last long on the free agent market — the joke in NASCAR was that every job in the garage was available for him, except, of course, the one he had. Joe Gibbs Racing snapped him up to help guide Hamlin out of a season-long slump.
"I guess you could say it is a little bit of vindication, but I really don't think that way," Grubb said Sunday. "I try to just think the high road all the time. I feel like I came into a very good situation."
Hamlin ran fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500 and might have had a chance to race for the win if he'd been able to put a plan together with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished second. After struggling most of Friday at Phoenix, the team turned it around to get Hamlin the win that moved him into the Sprint Cup Series points lead.
"(Former crew chief) Mike Ford built one heck of a team here with the 11 car, and the FedEx Toyota is obviously really strong. The Joe Gibbs organization is very strong," Grubb said.
Before Daytona, Hamlin figured it would take "seven races, realistically, before (Grubb) fully understands me and understands what I'm talking about."
He did not update that timetable after the victory.
"I honestly feel like it's going to be realistically two months before we're totally clicking and knowing exactly what each other is saying and talking about," he said. "So to have success early tells me that we've obviously got a good pairing here. But for me, I think that this is also a testament to JGR and the steps it's taken in the off-season."
Collegiate Baseball ranks Bat Cats 23rd
Kentucky, ranked No. 23 by Collegiate Baseball, will host Tennessee Tech at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Bat Cats are 11-0 and, along with Gonzaga (10-0), are the only two undefeated teams in the nation.
UK will send freshman right-hander Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 3.00 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. Through two appearances and his one start, Shepherd has pitched six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out five.
■ Kentucky's men's golf team, led by junior Chase Parker, put together one of its best rounds of the year on Monday, shooting a team score of 4 under (284) to move into fourth at the USF Invitational in Tampa, Fla., with one round to play. Parker, seventh on the individual leader board, tied a career-low with a 5-under 67. Sophomore Cody Martin shot a 71.
■ Kentucky softball's Griffin Joiner was named the Southeastern Conference's freshman of the week. The former Christian County standout led the Cats with a .571 average in five games in the Ragin' Cajun Invitational in Lafayette, La. Joiner was 8-for-14 and scored five runs.
■ The Kentucky gymnastics team, which earned its second straight win over a top-25 opponent Friday against Illinois, was ranked No. 25 in the GymInfo rankings released Monday.
Sports in the courts
Dykstra gets three-year prison sentence
Disgraced ex-New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra on Monday was sentenced to three years in a California state prison after pleading no contest to grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ulfig sentenced Dykstra after refusing to allow him to withdraw his plea and said the scam to lease high-end automobiles from dealerships by providing fraudulent information and claiming credit through a phony business showed sophistication and extensive planning.
"He obviously didn't have the money to get the vehicles," Ulfig said. "His conduct was indeed criminal."
Dykstra, 49, has had a series of recent legal troubles, and the prison sentence is part of a post-career downward spiral that has included a stint at a sober living facility for the stocky slugger known as "Nails."
In a rambling and an impassioned plea for probation, Dykstra said that he has tried to make amends for his past transgressions and that had his motion to withdraw his plea been granted, he would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"I'm doing everything in my power to be a better person," he said.
Japanese equestrian qualifies at age 70
Hiroshi Hoketsu first went to the Olympics in 1964 when he was 23 and the Games were in his native Tokyo. Now nearly 71, Hoketsu will be going to the Olympics again — not to watch, but to compete.
He qualified last week for the individual dressage competition on Japan's Olympic team for London this summer. He will be Japan's oldest Olympian again, reprising his role from the Beijing Games four years ago.
"This time, I am very pleased to have qualified, particularly because my horse had a little accident last year," Hoketsu said. "She was not in very good condition."
The horse is Whisper, a 15-year-old mare.
"A little bit old, but still a good age," Hoketsu said.
Although the team selection hasn't been announced officially, Hoketsu has no doubt he will be competing in the individual event. He plans to ride in a few competitions as he prepares for London.
In Beijing in 2008, Hoketsu competed at age 67. He finished ninth in the dressage team event and 35th in the individual competition.
"In London, I hope to do a little bit better," he said. "I didn't that well in Beijing because they had that big screen in the hall and my horse just hates to see that moving screen."
Hoketsu has been riding Whisper for five years, but the horse's health was a major cause of concern. The problems began in February of last year, and three vets were unable to find the right cure. Finally, there was a diagnosis of tendinitis.
"I had totally given up on trying to go to London," Hoketsu said. "But then, in mid-November, a friend introduced me to a good vet and, one month later, I was training again and, in January, I started competing again. The horse's recovery was a miracle. I was very lucky."
Track and field
NAIA honors 8 from Kentucky schools
Cumberlands' Brendan Kelly and Aundreas Lopez were named NAIA men's track and field All-Americans in the 800-meter run. Lindsey Wilson's Ricardo Vergara and Roberto Vergara made the eight-man squads for the 3,000-meter race walk.
Campbellsville's Tiosha Beasley (triple jump) Cumberlands' Darcy Mascotti (1,000 meters), and Lindsey Wilson's Sharon Ronoh (5,000 meters) and Reini Brickson (3,000-meter race walk) were named women's NAIA All-Americans.
The last word
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington has no problem with Rory McIlroy being ranked No. 1 in the world at age 22:
"He's got a game that people think is world No. 1. ... He won a major at a young age. He's got the game. Yeah, you can compare him with Tiger (Woods). He's still got a lot to do. And there's no doubt that Tiger's 14 majors are very impressive. But if you're going to win a lot of majors, you've got to start winning them early. ... He's going to play a lot of majors where he'll be the favorite."