Around The Nation (July 4): Daytona International Speedway redoes gates, readies for groundbreaking

Associated Press Published:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASCAR

Daytona Speedway has major track revamps

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Daytona International Speedway has completed one project and is about to start another.

NASCAR's most famous track finished installation of revamped cross-over gates Wednesday, a day before drivers and teams took to the high-banked oval to begin preparations for Saturday night's 400-mile race.

The gates were reinforced following a frightening wreck in February that injured nearly 30 spectators. Daytona and Talladega added cables at the crossover gates, which allow fans to move between the grandstands and the infield before and after races. The tracks also installed supplemental tethers between the gate frame and support posts.

Track president Joie Chitwood III says, "We've been around 55 years and, yes, things happen. But we've done a really good job of giving fans a safe and fun environment. You never stop doing that."

Sixteen cars fail exam at Daytona practice

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Sixteen cars failed inspection before Thursday's Sprint Cup practice at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR confiscated the teams' roof flaps, which are designed to keep cars on the ground during spins and wrecks at high speeds, for further inspection. Penalties could be possible.

The cars involved included all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries (Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth), all three Roush Fenway Racing entries (Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), all three Michael Waltrip Racing entries (Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Michael Waltrip) and both Roger Penske Racing entries (Joey Logano and defending series champion Brad Keselowski).

NASCAR inspectors made teams install new, unaltered roof flaps before drivers were allowed on the track for the first of two practices.

Labonte not ready yet to discuss retirement

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Bobby Labonte has spent his weekends at the race track for 22 consecutive years. The stretch was so long, he doesn't even know what normal people do with their free time.

He had to figure it out the hard way last weekend, when he found himself out of a ride for the first time since 1989.

Labonte didn't say how he spent last weekend while AJ Allmendinger drove Labonte's car.

He didn't watch the race at Kentucky Speedway, where his streak of 704 consecutive Sprint Cup Series starts came to an end. JTG Daugherty Racing decided to use Allmendinger in the car for a handful of races this year in an attempt for the single-car operation to get more feedback on its car and the overall program.

BASKETBALL

Kings, Pelicans, Blazers agree to major trade

People familiar with the trade say Sacramento, New Orleans and Portland have agreed to a three-team deal sending guard Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans, center Robin Lopez to the Trail Blazers and guard Greivis Vasquez to the Kings.

The people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because NBA rules prevent confirmation of trades until July 10, say Portland is sending second-round draft pick Jeff Withey to New Orleans and a future draft pick to Sacramento as part of the deal, which was first reported by ESPN.

Evans, a former Rookie of the Year and restricted free agent, averaged 15.2 points with the Kings last season, his fourth. The 7-foot Lopez averaged 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Vasquez averaged 13.9 points and nine assists.

Bobcats ink Jefferson to three-year deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- People familiar with the situation say the Charlotte Bobcats have agreed to a three-year, $40.5 million contract with free agent center Al Jefferson from the Utah Jazz.

Jefferson will make $13.5 million in each season with a player option for the third year.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal isn't official. According to NBA rules, the contract cannot be signed until July 10.

Jefferson, 28, gives the Bobcats a much-needed scoring threat in the low post, where they struggled last season. The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson has averaged 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game over the last seven seasons.

Jefferson averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists for Utah last season, his third with the Jazz.

Hawks agree to long deal with Korver

ATLANTA -- A person with knowledge of the deal says the Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement to re-sign guard-forward Kyle Korver to a multiyear deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been officially announced.

Korver averaged 10.9 points per game and ranked second in the NBA by making 45.7 percent of his 3-point shots. Korver also had reported interest from Brooklyn, Milwaukee and San Antonio.

The contract will not impact the Hawks' ability to offer free-agent center Dwight Howard a maximum contract. General manager Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer met with Howard, Ferry and Josh Smith in Los Angeles this week.

ESPN reported the deal is for four years and $24 million.

Knicks to keep Smith, Prigioni next season

NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks are keeping J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, two key members of their first Atlantic Division championship team since 1994.

Both players agreed to new deals Thursday, their agents confirmed.

Smith, the Sixth Man of the Year, gets a four-year contract worth around $25 million.

Prigioni could make about $6 million over three years. The Argentine guard moved into the starting lineup late in the season and helped the Knicks finish 54-28.

GOLF

Galney, Wagner sit atop board at Greenbrier

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Tommy Gainey and Johnson Wagner each shot an 8-under 62 on Thursday to share a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Greenbrier Classic.

Webb Simpson and Jin Park were close behind after 64s. Daniel Summerhays, Tag Ridings, Steven Bowditch and Neal Lancaster were another shot back.

Former Kent State standout Ben Curtis is currently 3-under 67 after shooting a 1-under 34 on Thursday. Former Garrettsville resident Colt Knost is at 6-over 76.

Players could lift, clean and place their balls after rain fell prior to the start of play.

Gainey and Wagner had bogey-free rounds in the morning. Wagner was 8 under after 12 holes but finished with six straight pars. Both could use a good week in West Virginia. Wagner doesn't have a top 10 finish this year. Gainey's best showing is sixth.

Bill Haas, the winner at Congressional last week, had a 68, while Phil Mickelson came off his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open with a 74.

BASEBALL

Manny reports to Texas Rangers' Triple-A team

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Manny Ramirez reported to the Texas Rangers' Triple-A affiliate on Thursday and said he could play as early as Sunday.

The Rangers agreed to terms on a minor league contract on Wednesday with the 41-year-old slugger, who hasn't played in the big leagues since 2011 with Tampa Bay.

Ramirez worked out with the Round Rock Express and told reporters he hopes to play Sunday or Monday.

Ramirez has twice been suspended for testing positive for banned drugs. The 12-time All-Star was suspended 50 games in 2009 while with the Dodgers after testing positive for a banned drug. He retired in April 2011 instead of serving a 100-game ban for a second positive test, but later agreed to a reduced 50-game suspension and played in the minors for Oakland in 2012.

A lifetime .312 hitter, Ramirez is 14th on the career home runs list with 555.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.