Dillon, driving No. 3 Chevrolet, earns pole for Daytona 500
With the No. 3 on his car and memories of the late Dale Earnhardt fresh in his mind, Austin Dillon took the fabled number out of hibernation and straight to the top on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Dillon reawakened the days of “The Intimidator” and proved he can handle the spotlight thrust on his ride in the No. 3, winning the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500. The race is Sunday.
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Dillon took the top spot with a lap at 196.019 mph in a car owner Richard Childress had refused to field at NASCAR’s highest level since Earnhardt’s fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
But with his 23-year-old grandson ready to move to the Sprint Cup Series, Childress allowed Dillon to use the number widely associated with the seven-time champion. Earnhardt won 67 races, including the 1998 Daytona 500, driving the No. 3.
Dillon has competed in No. 3 vehicles in the NASCAR truck series and Nationwide Series.
“Everybody wants to see this number perform well, and that’s what my goals are,” Dillon said. “I love getting in that race car and driving it.”
Martin Truex Jr. was second at 195.852 mph and is locked into the front row for the 56th Daytona 500. Dillon and Truex will lead their fields to the green flag in Thursday’s Budweiser Duel at Daytona 150-lap qualifying races that will decide the starting order of positions 3 through 32 for the Daytona 500.
In the Duel race where Dillon will start first, Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., will start in second and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw will start in 10th of 25 cars.
Chevy pace-car fire is hot topic
During Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the Chevrolet SS pace car was on fire before the third segment of the exhibition.
Flames could be seen shooting from the rear of the car as it sat on the apron.
Chevrolet officials said they are assessing the fire. The pace car has an auxiliary electrical kit in the trunk that operates caution lights, but Chevy officials have not linked the electrical kit to the fire.
Denny Hamlin, a Toyota driver who won the Sprint Unlimited, offered a solution to the pace-car issue: “Should have been driving a Camry.”
Ravens’ Rice is arrested in N.J.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J., after an argument with his fiancée turned physical, according to police.
Atlantic City police said Rice, 27, and Janay Palmer were both arrested on simple-assault charges and released on a summons after an incident at the Revel Casino early Saturday morning. Neither reported injuries.
Rice attorney Michael Diamondstein said he is hopeful after an investigation “the matter turns out to be little more than a misunderstanding.”
Nishikori repeats in Memphis
Kei Nishikori of Japan came to Memphis, Tenn., wanting more matches to help him keep up his strong start to the year. He is leaving with his fourth career title.
Nishikori repeated as the winner of the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships, beating 6-foot-11 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (7-0).
Nishikori earned $103,100 for his first successful title defense. He is 11-2 this year and is the tournament’s first back-to-back winner since German Tommy Haas in 2006 and 2007.
Berdych takes ABN Amro final
Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic won his first ATP tournament title since October 2012, beating Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 6-2 in the ABN Amro final in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Halep wins Qatar Open title
Seventh-seeded Simona Halep of Romania won her first title of the year with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany in the Qatar Open final in Doha.
It was the seventh career title for Halep, 22, who won the previous six last year.
Arsenal advances in FA Cup
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a goal and set up another, leading Arsenal over Liverpool 2-1 and into the English FA Cup quarterfinals.
After the match, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was asked about comments made Friday by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who called him a “specialist in failure.”
Wenger told BT Sport: “I do not want to go into that silly, disrespectful remark. I never spoke about him in my press conference and I will not start. The only thing I know is, it’s more embarrassing for Chelsea than for me.”
Mourinho was unhappy because Wenger earlier had said the English Premier League title was “Chelsea’s to lose.”
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