NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been sidelined the last two races after suffering lingering effects from two concussions, has been medically cleared for competition.

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Auto racing

Earnhardt is cleared to drive

NASCAR’s most popular driver is set to return to the racetrack this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been sidelined the last two weeks after suffering lingering effects from two concussions, on Tuesday was medically cleared for competition. He is expected to drive Sunday in the Tums Fast Relief 500, a Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

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Earnhardt has participated in a rehabilitation program directed by neurosurgeon Jerry Petty.

“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” Petty said. “He hasn’t had a headache since Oct. 12, and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time.”

In a closed test Monday, Earnhardt ran 123 laps without incident as Petty watched at Gresham Motorsports Park in Georgia.


O’Meara speaks his mind

Mark O’Meara indicated he feels slighted in an interview with The Associated Press.

Seattle native Fred Couples was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame last month on the PGA Tour ballot with a record-low 51 percent of the vote. O’Meara was fourth in the voting, with 36 percent.

Couples, 53, has won 15 PGA Tour events, including one major title, for earnings of $22.28 million. O’Meara, 55, has 16 Tour victories, including two majors, for earnings of $14.17 million.

“I flipped on the TV and I saw Fred,” O’Meara recalled. “The last time I had seen Fred, he hit a drive off the first tee in Seattle (actually at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge) and couldn’t play because of a bad back. He’s on a chair at what looked like Riviera. I turn it up and I hear him talk about getting a phone call from the commissioner and the Hall of Fame. It was disappointing.

“No disrespect at all to Fred Couples, who has had a lovely career. I understand that he won two TPCs, the Masters. But I won more PGA Tour events, more majors. I won a U.S. Amateur. I mention this to Bernhard Langer and he said, ‘You’re going to get in.’ Is it when I stop playing? When I’m 6 feet under? When there’s no one left to put in?”

Harrington leads in Bermuda

Padraig Harrington, a playoff loser the two times he qualified for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, gave himself a chance to win as an alternate. He shot a 5-under-par 66 at Port Royal in Southampton, Bermuda, to take a two-shot lead over Masters champion Bubba Watson in the 36-hole exhibition that ends Wednesday.

The event is for the year’s four major champions, but Harrington replaced British Open champion Ernie Els (minor ankle injury) and Keegan Bradley replaced PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy (opted for BMW Masters in China).

U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson shot a 69 and Bradley had a 72.

Meanwhile, Els changed management companies, leaving Pros Inc. to join IMG.

Champions League soccer

Chelsea loses on the road

Defending champion Chelsea of England lost 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine in a Group E match in the UEFA Champions League.

Group G leader Barcelona of Spain beat visiting Celtic of Scotland 2-1 on Jordi Alba’s goal four minutes into second-half stoppage time. Group H leader Manchester United of England beat visiting Braga of Portugal 3-2 after trailing by two goals.


• American Serena Williams, in her first tennis match since winning the U.S. Open last month, beat Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-4, 6-1 to start round-robin play in the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

In other matches, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland defeated Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2, and Maria Sharapova of Russia defeated Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-2 in a repeat of the French Open final — also won by Sharapova.

• While negotiators for the NHL and union kept conversations to a minimum, team officials had a brief window last week to discuss the league’s latest proposal with its locked-out players.

So far, those discussions haven’t produced a breakthrough, but they have inflamed an already unsettled atmosphere. The union hierarchy wasn’t informed about the window at the time, and isn’t happy about it.

“Most owners are not allowed to attend bargaining meetings,” said Steve Fehr, union special counsel. “No owners are allowed to speak to the media about the bargaining. It is interesting that they are secretly unleashed to talk to the players about the meetings the players can attend, but the owners cannot.”

• The Indiana Fever and its fans didn’t let rain ruin their celebration of the WNBA championship won Sunday. The team, coached by ex-Storm coach Lin Dunn, and several thousand fans moved their party indoors to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis after rain scrapped plans for a parade.

Geno Auriemma, Connecticut and U.S. Olympic coach, told reporters he wants the rims lowered by about 7 inches in women’s basketball.

Auriemma noted volleyball nets are lower in the women’s game and said lowering basketball rims from 10 feet is no different.

“Let’s lower the rim seven inches; let’s say 7.2 inches to honor Title IX (the landmark legislation passed in 1972 banning sex discrimination in schools),” he said.

• Missouri’s athletic department is tightening employee use of school-issued credit cards after an audit found a series of improper purchases, including bills for more than $7,600 from a strip club in Las Vegas.

Michael Schumacher, Mizzou’s director of video operations, has repaid the amount of the charges from a May 2011 visit to the club Olympic Garden.

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