Johnson earns pole with track-record lap
Jimmie Johnson, his eyes on a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, won the pole for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 with a track-record qualifying lap of 139.222 mph Friday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.
Johnson surpassed the record of 138.766 set by Kyle Busch last November.
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“Track records are awesome,” Johnson said. “I don’t qualify on pole all that often, so I take great pride in them, especially track records. Very cool to do, and clearly a great time in the season and a great time in the Chase.”
Matt Kenseth, who trails Johnson by seven points in the standings with two races remaining in the 10-race Chase, will start in 14th.
“This track in the spring was extremely hard to pass at, probably one of the toughest tracks that we go to, and I don’t know if it will be any better or not this time,” Kenseth said. “Pit strategy was all basically the same the last time we were here. So, unless you have cautions fall funny, I don’t know if you’ll be able to do it on pit strategy. I think you’re going to have to have a good balance, good speed, you have to be able to pass, have to have good pit stops, all these things.”
Denny Hamlin qualified second with a lap at 139.023.
Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw will start in seventh, and Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., will start in 18th of 43.
A-Rod wants lawsuit sent back to N.Y. court
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees wants his lawsuit against Major League Baseball and commissioner Bud Selig sent back to state court, and the sport said it will move to dismiss the case.
A day after an initial conference in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the feuding sides filed paperwork explaining their intended motions.
MLB contends the case should be heard in federal court because of provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act. Ex-Mariner Rodriguez’s lawyers said that “contradicts the positions MLB repeatedly took before the Florida state court in the lawsuit it filed against Biogenesis of America” and accuses the sport of taking “a 180-degree turn.”
A hearing before U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield is scheduled for Jan. 23.
Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by MLB in August for alleged violations of the sport’s drug agreement and labor contract; he was able to play during his appeal.
Wawrinka reaches semifinals in ATP event
Stanislas Wawrinka reached another milestone.
Having played better than ever over the past 10 months, the 28-year-old Swiss made another statement by beating David Ferrer of Spain to reach the semifinals in his first appearance at the eight-man ATP World Tour Finals in London.
“It’s certainly a dream season,” the seventh-seeded Wawrinka said after rallying to beat Ferrer 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1 in his final round-robin match.
Wawrinka will play defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Sunday. In the other semifinal, Rafael Nadal of Spain will face the winner of Saturday’s match between Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and Roger Federer of Switzerland.
UK Sport takes back its strip-club warning
UK Sport has backtracked on a threat to withdraw lottery funding from athletes who visit strip clubs.
The body, which oversees funding for British Olympic and Paralympic athletes, had warned against “attending a lap-dancing or strip club regardless of gender” in a list of examples of unacceptable behavior Thursday.
It has since removed the guideline.
A UK Sport statement said, “We accept that one of the examples we included was not helpful and has subsequently led to confusion. Therefore we have taken the decision to remove the example.”
Misdemeanors remaining on the list include telling sexist jokes, tweeting or retweeting racist comments and desecrating a memorial or religious shrine.
• Coach Kevin Dineen was fired by the Florida Panthers, who had the fewest points in the NHL last season and are 3-9-4 this season.
Peter Horachek, 53, was summoned from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio to replace Dineen, 50, on an interim basis.
• Ryan Getzlaf scored three goals as NHL-leading Anaheim beat visiting Buffalo 6-2.
• In figure skating, two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan won the women’s short program at the NHK Trophy in Tokyo.
Seattle Times news services