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NASCAR alters Chase format

NASCAR overhauled the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, announcing Thursday a 16-driver, winner-take-all elimination system designed to reward “the most worthy, battle-tested” driver at the end of the season.

The field, expanded from 12 to 16 drivers, will be whittled down to a final four through eliminations after every three races of the 10-race Chase. The remaining four drivers will go into the season finale with an equal chance to win the championship: The first of the four to cross the finish line will be crowned Sprint Cup champion.

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“No math. No bonus points. It’s as simple as it gets,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said.

It’s the fourth change to either the points or championship format since France created the Chase in 2004. For 28 years before the Chase, consistency reigned as the champion was the driver with the most points.

Michael Schumacher’s doctors have started trying to wake up the Formula One great from the medically induced coma he’s been in since a skiing accident last month, his manager said.

Schumacher, 45, suffered serious head injuries when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock in the French resort of Meribel on Dec. 29. The seven-time F1 champion has been in an induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital since then, though his condition stabilized following surgery after initially being described as critical.


Michael Young to retire

The Los Angeles Dodgers won’t be able to start Michael Young at second base on opening day if they decide Alexander Guerrero is not yet ready to play in the major leagues.

Young, 37, will retire from baseball Friday, according to several media reports.

Young batted .300 with 185 home runs and 1,030 runs batted in over 14 seasons, 13 of which were spent with the Texas Rangers.

Kansas City left-hander Bruce Chen agreed to a $4.25 million, one-year contract to return to the Royals, where he’s spent the past five seasons.


Injuries mount for Canucks

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa will miss Vancouver’s five-game road trip leading into the Olympic break, adding another name to a long list of injuries for the Canucks.

The team also announced that center Mike Santorelli is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Defenseman Christopher Tanev also is out with what’s believed to be a broken hand. Captain Henrik Sedin has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury.

The Colorado Avalanche signed goaltender Semyon Varlamov, 25, to a five-year extension that goes through the 2018-19 season.

Varlamov is thriving under first-year coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, posting a 26-9-5 record with a 2.43 goals-against average.

Johan Franzen won’t play for Sweden at the Sochi Olympics because of a concussion.

The Detroit Red Wings right wing had missed a month before returning for one game Jan. 26. Franzen played just under 17 minutes and was placed on the injured list again.


Galaxy adds midfielder

Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishikazi, 31, signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

In other MLS moves, defender Chance Myers re-signed with Sporting Kansas City and midfielder Vincent Nogueira signed with the Philadelphia Union in a transfer from the French club Sochaux.

American midfielder Jermaine Jones, 32, was loaned to the Turkish club Besiktas from Schalke for the rest of the season after telling the Bundesliga team he wanted a move before the winter transfer window closes Friday.


Six-time medalist retires

Six-time Olympic medalist Rebecca Soni retired from swimming. The 26-year-old American plans to launch a new lifestyle company and blog instead of making an attempt at her third Olympics. Soni, who has three gold medals, is best known for becoming the first woman to break 2 minutes, 20 seconds in the 200 breaststroke.

Irina Starykh, a biathlete who was one of Russia’s brightest hopes for an Olympic medal in Sochi, announced she was stepping down from the team because of a doping violation.


• Australian media reports say five-time Olympic champion swimmer Ian Thorpe, 31, has checked out of a rehab facility in Sydney after seeking treatment for depression and alcohol abuse.

Jay Pandolfo, 39, is retiring after 15 seasons in the NHL and two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.

Donald Young, who beat Andy Murray at Indian Wells in 2011 in what he termed “the biggest win of my career,” will get another shot at the two-time Grand Slam champion Friday in a first-round Davis Cup match between the United States and Great Britain in San Diego.

• Eighth-seeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium comfortably beat Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 6-1, 6-3 at the Open GDF Suez in Paris to set up a quarterfinal against top-seeded Maria Sharapova.

Todd Hoffner, a former college football coach who was cleared in a child-pornography investigation in Minnesota, is the new head coach at Minot State in North Dakota.

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