Martin edges Edwards for fifth career pole at Richmond
Mark Martin watched and waited as 44 other drivers made two qualifying laps around Richmond International Raceway in Virginia on Friday night, then went out and beat them all.
Martin turned the second-fastest lap on his first circuit around the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval, then nudged Carl Edwards to the outside of the front row with a lap at 128.327 mph to win the pole for Saturday night's Sprint Cup race. It's his 53rd career pole.
"I was very close to skinning the car up, especially off of (turn) four (on) the second lap," Martin said. "I'm driving it as hard as I can go, and at the very limits of my talent."
Edwards' top lap at 128.290 had hung on through 17 drivers, but when Martin moved to second on the scoring tower with his first lap, Edwards paid much closer attention.
"I thought we had him, and then he shot up to the top of the scoreboard," he said.
It's Martin's fifth career pole at Richmond, and comes 31 years after his first.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is just as big a deal," he said.
It also was Michael Waltrip Racing's third pole in eight events this season.
Busch brothers team for Nationwide win
Kurt Busch blew past Kevin Harvick after the last pit stops with under 50 laps to go Friday night and held on in a side-by-side, last-lap duel with local favorite Denny Hamlin to win the Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
Driving a car owned by brother Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch passed Harvick on the 222nd lap after the green-flag stops. Busch seemed likely to cruise to the victory, but Hamlin pulled up on his rear bumper with a few laps to go, and ducked inside him as they crossed the white line for the final lap. Busch, somehow, held off Hamlin on the outside to win by a nose.
"I've driven for guys like (Roger) Penske and (Jack) Roush, but when you're driving for a guy named Busch, you've got to be on it, and I was glad to be able to deliver," Busch said in Victory Lane, having given the team owned by his younger brother its first victory.
Hamlin, he said, "just came out of nowhere."
So did Kyle in Victory Lane, greeting his brother before he even climbed from the car. "This is the most emotional I've ever been for a win," Kyle Busch said.
Dufner has another lead at halfway point
Jason Dufner is in familiar territory atop the leader board after 36 holes. It's the weekends that have given him fits. Dufner moved into position for another bid to win his first PGA Tour title, shooting a 7-under 65 on Friday to take the second-round lead in the Zurich Classic in Avondale, La.
Dufner has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead in two of his last four tournaments, including the Masters, where he closed with consecutive 75s. He's second on the tour in pre-cut scoring, but 98th in third rounds and 108th in final rounds.
"It's been a difficult weekend for me the last month and a half or so," Dufner said. "I haven't quite played as well as I would have liked, but I know that my game is still pretty good.
"I've been trying to think about what I can do better mentally, what I can do better emotionally out there and learn from some things that I maybe struggled with. Obviously, there's a lot of different things that go into winning besides hitting the golf ball."
Dufner lost playoffs last year to Mark Wilson in the Phoenix Open and Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship for two of his three runner-up finishes in 163 starts on the PGA Tour.
On Friday, he capped his bogey-free round with a 30-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to reach 12 under.
PGA Tour rookie Russell Knox, John Rollins and first-round co-leader Ken Duke were tied for second.
Defending champion Bubba Watson had his second consecutive 71 to make the cut on the number at 2 under in his first tournament since his playoff victory in the Masters.
■ Brandon Brown of Shelbyville shot a 63 Friday in the NGA Tour event in McCormick, S.C. Brown, who was at 11-under par after two rounds, trails the leader, Chas Narramore, by one shot.
Brown, a former Eastern Kentucky University star who won the tour's event last weekend, birdied his first three holes.
"A 70 and a 63 is a solid start," Brown said. "My confidence is extremely high right now. Any time you can win against players of this caliber, your confidence only gets better. I'm really looking forward to the weekend."
■ Bernd Wiesberger shot a course-record 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Marcus Fraser in the Ballantine's Championship on the European Tour stop in Seoul, South Korea.
■ Stacy Lewis birdied five of her final nine holes for a 5-under 67 and a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala.
Softball's Bell shuts out No. 2 Florida
Chanda Bell pitched a complete-game shutout and Brittany Cervantes hit a home run in the Kentucky softball team's 2-0 victory against No. 2-ranked Florida in Gainesville on Friday.
Bell had eight strikeouts and earned her 13th win of the season.
"Chanda really was tremendous tonight," UK Coach Rachel Lawson said. "To hold a team like Florida scoreless and to only give up four hits was the reason we were able to win this game."
Cervantes hit her team-leading 10th home run of the season to become the first player in UK history to hit 10 or more homers in a season during every year of her career.
Cats' Evans wins discus at Penn Relays
Kentucky sophomore Andrew Evans won the men's discus championship at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia on Friday. Evans' best throw was 185 feet, 6 inches.
Freshman sprinter Keilah Tyson won the third heat of the women's 100-meter dash, crossing the line in 11.57.
QB Sims to transfer from Alabama
Alabama quarterback Phillip Sims will transfer after the spring semester. Sims said in a statement released Friday by the university that supporting his family in Virginia "needs to be my priority right now." Sims said he hopes to continue his playing career but didn't mention a possible destination.
The third-year sophomore was one of the nation's most highly touted quarterback prospects out of Chesapeake, Va., but lost a battle with A.J. McCarron for the starting job early last season. McCarron led the Crimson Tide to a national title and has two more years of eligibility.
Sims played in eight games, completing 64.3 percent of his passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
■ The NCAA ruled that South Carolina failed to monitor its athletics program that resulted in various rules violations, and it has accepted the school's proposed sanctions to cut six football scholarships and slash its official recruiting visits by more than half in the coming year. There were no forfeiture of games or bowl bans attached to the penalties, which stemmed from athletes receiving $59,000 in impermissible benefits.
The last word
Radd Leonard, a 52-year-old motorcycle shop owner from Baton Rouge, came out to the Zurich Classic on Friday to see Bubba Watson and the Masters winner rewarded him by hooking his drive on the second hole into the back of Leonard's head. Said Leonard:
"I saw it coming and it looked like it was hooking right at me. I wanted to see that big hook, you know, and I got to see it. I turned and ducked and it still hit me. It gave him a good bounce, anyway."