Harvick Opens NASCAR Speedweeks With Daytona Victory

Oldham Athletic's Matt Smith, number 14, scores the equalizing goal for his side during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match against Everton at Boundary Park in Oldham, England, Saturday Feb. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Oldham Athletic's Matt Smith, number 14, scores the equalizing goal for his side during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match against Everton at Boundary Park in Oldham, England, Saturday Feb. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Clint Hughes)

Daytona Beach, Fla. — Kevin Harvick won the first race of Speedweeks, dominating the final two segments of the exhibition Sprint Unlimited in the debut of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.

“I’m glad we got Speedweeks started off the right way,” said Harvick, who won last night’s non-points race at Daytona International Speedway for the third time in five years.

But with only 19 cars in the field at the start of the race — and that was whittled down to 12 after an early accident — there wasn’t a great feel for what the Feb. 24 season-opening Daytona 500 will look like with a full 43-car field.

“We’ll have to wait a week and see what the weather is like,” Harvick said. “There’s still a lot to learn with a full pack of cars.”

There wasn’t a chance for that in the 75-lap exhibition race, which was split into three segments. Fans got to vote on the format and decided on 30 laps, 25 laps then a 20-lap sprint to the finish.

But several big names were knocked out a mere 15 laps into the race. Tony Stewart was running second when he cut across the front of Marcos Ambrose, making slight contact that turned Stewart sideways and required a save to keep from crashing. Traffic stacked up behind him, triggering a chain-reaction, nine-car crash that wiped out seven cars.

Taken out just 15 laps into the first segment were defending race winner Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch.

Biffle finished second and Joey Logano was third in his Penske Racing debut. Stewart was fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth in his Joe Gibbs Racing debut.


Arsenal Out of FA Cup

London — Arsenal sank to another low yesterday with a 1-0 loss at home to second-tier Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup, leaving manager Arsene Wenger facing the possibility of an eighth straight season without any trophies.

Knocked out of the League Cup by fourth-tier Bradford in the quarterfinals two months ago, Arsenal was jeered by its fans after Colin Kazim-Richards scored for Blackburn in the 72nd minute. In 17 seasons with the Gunners, Wenger had never lost to a lower-division team in the FA Cup.

Oldham’s Matt Smith beat American goalkeeper Tim Howard in the fifth minute of stoppage time for a 2-2 tie against visiting Everton, earning a replay at Goodison Park.

Luton’s bid to become the first non-league team in 99 years to reach the quarterfinals ended with a 3-0 home loss to Millwall, which got goals from James Henry in the 12th, Robert Hulse in the 36th and Dany N’Guessan in the 86th. Barnsley beat MK Dons 3-1 in another match between lower-league clubs.


Haas (64) Grabs
Riviera Lead

Los Angeles — Bill Haas had another bogey-free round at Riviera while shooting a 7-under 64 — the best round of the day by three shots — to take a three-stroke lead into the final day of the Northern Trust Open.

On a warm day off Sunset Boulevard that made greens even faster, Haas turned in a remarkable score. The key was a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 6-under par, including a chip-in for eagle on the par-4 10th. He was at 12-under 201 and will try to become the eighth back-to-back winner in the 76-year history of this tournament.


Chief Quits
Over Olympic Snub

Phuket, Thailand — The president of the international wrestling federation has quit in the wake of the IOC’s decision to remove the sport from the 2020 Olympics.

Raphael Martinetti’s resignation was announced yesterday at the FILA executive committee meeting in Phuket. The Swiss had been in the position since 2002.

On Tuesday, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee dumped wrestling from its guaranteed berth in future Summer games, forcing the sport to compete for a spot on the program.

U.S.A. Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said Martinetti’s departure “provides international wrestling with an opportunity to change and improve,” giving the sport a chance “to create a fresh new relationship” with the IOC.


Nadal Back to Finals

Sao Paulo — Rafael Nadal outlasted 111th-ranked Martin Alund 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1 at the Brazil Open yesterday to reach his second straight final after a long layoff to treat his left knee.

Nadal next plays David Nalbandian, the former world No. 3 who defeated Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-3, 7-5 to make it to his first final since being disqualified for injuring a line judge at Queen’s Club last year.

Still looking for his rhythm and working his way into match shape, Nadal lost six straight points in the tiebreaker in the second set, but dominated the third to advance.


NY-to-SF Record Set

San Francisco — A racing yacht named after one of the world’s fastest cars has docked in San Francisco after what organizers said was the fastest passage of a single-hulled sailing vessel from New York to San Francisco.

The 70-foot Maserati sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge late yesterday morning and tied up at Pier 39 Marina around 11:30 a.m., 47 days after pulling out of New York City, said Judy Laws, a spokeswoman for the event.

The 13,225-mile journey around Cape Horn at the tip of South America is what sailors have said for centuries is one of the most challenging sailing journeys in the world.

The Maserati finished the trip in 47 days, 2 hours and 33 minutes, easily beating the most recent record of 57 days, three hours and two minutes set in 1998, Laws said.

“They beat it by a little more than 10 days. They smashed it,” Laws said.

“This is a big deal,” Andy Turpin, managing editor of Latitude 38, the Marin County-based sailing magazine, told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week. “This is one of the most difficult sailing records.” The eight-member crew of the Maserati — led by its Italian skipper 47-year-old Giovanni Soldini — left New York City on New Year’s Eve.

Though calm winds late Friday had pushed back the vessel’s expected arrival by a few hours, Laws described a festive atmosphere as dignitaries, including Mauro Battocchi, Consul General of Italy in San Francisco, and others greeted the crew when they arrived at the dock.

“It’s just been a happy, happy time,” Laws said.