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Earnhardt returns to Talladega

An epic relationship will be rekindled this weekend when NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., tangles with the Sprint Cup Series’ infamous queen of superspeedways, Talladega.

Earnhardt has won five races at NASCAR’s highest level at the Alabama track. The only active driver with more Cup triumphs at Talladega is four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, who has six.

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Earnhardt called the racing at Talladega “bloodthirsty” after a multicar crash at the 2.66-mile track last October, an incident that crushed any shot at his first Cup championship. The bumpy ride left Earnhardt with a concussion and forced him to miss two races.

The Camping World RV Sales 500 is Sunday and Matt Kenseth leads the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings by four points over Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt is 66 points behind Kenseth.

“We have torn up a lot of cars and been frustrated most times when we leave here,” Earnhardt said. “I still come back as confident and excited about the opportunities as ever. That is the way we feel this weekend.”

As for the superspeedway, Earnhardt said, “ I think this place will just continue to deliver, year after year, long after I’m gone.”

Penske Racing sweeps front row

Penske Racing swept the front row in qualifying for Saturday’s IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Will Power, Helio Castroneves and A.J. Allmendinger earned the front-row spots for the MAVTV 500.

Castroneves is 25 points behind leader Scott Dixon.

“They did a hell of a job to be a front-row lockout, so job accomplished for those guys,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who was seventh in qualifying, is assured of his third series championship if he finishes fifth or better. The 33-year-old from New Zealand won titles in 2003 and 2008.

Brazilian Castroneves, 38, hasn’t won an IndyCar championship.


Williams won’t be Dream coach

The Atlanta Dream has decided not to renew the contract of Fred Williams, coach and general manager.

Team officials said in a news release Williams’ contract ends Nov. 30. He will move to a consultant position as a new coach and general manager takes over.

As coach, Williams had a 24-20 regular-season record and a 5-6 playoff record. The team made it to the WNBA Finals this year but was swept by Minnesota.

Williams was promoted from assistant coach to coach/GM in August 2012 and signed a one-year contract in December.

Meanwhile, Phoenix interim coach Russ Pennell and team president Amber Cox will not return to the Mercury. Without being specific, Pennell — who coached Phoenix for 18 games — said he will return to college basketball.


Mexico hires yet another coach

Mexico’s national team has its fourth coach in six weeks.

Miguel Herrera was hired as coach of El Tri in place of Victor Manuel Vucetich and will guide the team in next month’s two-match playoff against New Zealand for a berth in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Mexican federation officials said they would evaluate after the two matches to decide if Herrera will continue.

Jose Manuel De la Torre was fired after a 2-1 home loss to Honduras on Sept. 6, and Luis Fernando Tena was let go after a 2-0 road loss to the United States on Sept. 10. Vucetich was 1-1 with Mexico, which lost 2-1 to Costa Rica on Tuesday.

“This is a crisis situation we are going through,” Mexican Football Federation President Justino Compean said.

Mexico last missed the World Cup in 1990.

“Of course this is not ideal, and nobody likes to keep changing coaches,” Compean said. “

Sporting KC takes MLS lead

Dominic Dwyer scored in the seventh minute to give host Sporting Kansas City a 1-0 Major League Soccer victory over D.C. United.

Sporting Kansas City (16-10-7) leads MLS with 55 points, two more than the Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls.

D.C. United (3-23-7), which had one shot on goal, has the worst record in the league.

Portland hosts Real Salt Lake on Saturday night and the Red Bulls visit Houston on Sunday.


• A suspended UNLV basketball player has quit the team ahead of a Nov. 12 preliminary hearing on criminal charges that he stole Nike sneakers, $500 cash and almost $900 worth of video games from a friend’s apartment in May.

Savon Goodman, a19-year-old forward from Philadelphia, issued a statement saying it was best to leave the program.

• In tennis, top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark defeated Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semifinals of the Luxembourg Open.

Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland beat second-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Samantha Stosur of Australia will face doubles partner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in the semifinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow after both players won in straight sets.

In the men’s quarterfinals, winners included top-seeded Richard Gasquet of France and defending champion Andreas Seppi of Italy.

• Top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain has pulled out of next week’s Swiss Indoors because of fatigue.

• Researchers at the University of British Columbia seemingly are closing another avenue for cheating in sports — a DNA test that can catch athletes who use blood doping.

The test is touted as being easier, faster and cheaper than current tests to identify athletes who receive a transfusion with oxygen-infused blood.

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