DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Michael Waltrip won the Daytona 500 for the second time in three years Sunday in a race cut dramatically short by rain.
It was the first time in 37 years the showcase of stock car racing had been shortened by rain and it added another bizarre chapter to an event that has grown into one of the most significant on the American sports calendar.
"You just don't know what Daytona means unless you have risked your life pursuing your dreams here," said an emotional Waltrip.
Waltrip captured the race in 2001, but that victory was overshadowed by the death of Dale Earnhardt, whose car hit the wall on the final turn of the final lap just as Waltrip was crossing the finish line.
It was Earnhardt who helped give Waltrip's fading career a boost by hiring him to race for his team.
The win Sunday will likely be a controversial one since drivers and the more than 200,000 spectators had hoped to see a full 500-mile competition. Instead, the race was declared official after only 109 of the scheduled 200 laps around the Daytona International Speedway.
Although Waltrip would have been difficult to beat if the race had resumed, those close to the lead were deprived a chance to win their sport's biggest event.
Kurt Busch finished second with Jimmie Johnson third and Kevin Harvick fourth. Veteran Mark Martin, who finished second in the season-long championship last year and who started near the back of the field Sunday, was in fifth place when the race was stopped.
Bad weather threatened the race from the start and it was stopped for more than an hour early in the day when a brief, but heavy shower moved through.
Race favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared set to dominate when the race resumed, but the battery failed in his Chevrolet and he lost two laps while his crew changed the battery.
Earnhardt, however, played a key role in the race as a second rainstorm began to close in on the track.
Johnson emerged from the pits with the lead after a caution flag, but even though Earnhardt was two laps down, he was just in front of the leaders on the track. Waltrip was able to pull in behind Earnhardt, his teammate, and the draft created by their working in tandem allowed Waltrip to breeze past Johnson.
The rains came soon after and NASCAR officials waited more than an hour before deciding the race would be called.
This was the shortest Daytona 500, replacing the 1965 race won by Fred Lorenzen after 133 laps. In its 45-year history, the only other Daytona 500 not run to completion came in 1966, when Richard Petty was declared the winner with two laps to go.
Woods dominates in return
LA JOLLA, Calif., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods made his return to work an emphatic one Sunday by coasting to a four-shot victory at the Buick Invitational.
The triumph fueled anticipation for Woods' upcoming battles with Ernie Els.
About 12 hours after Els had won by 10 shots in Australia for his fourth victory in five starts this year, Woods fired a closing-round 68 at the difficult Torrey Pines South Course. He began the day with a two-shot advantage, took the fight out of his challengers with birdies on three of the first six holes and hit a pair of typically sensational shots on the back nine.
It was the first appearance of the year for Woods after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in December.
"I got better each and every day," Woods said. "I got back into the rhythm of hitting competitive shots."
Carl Pettersson finished a surprising second with a closing-round 69 that gave him a 276 total while Brad Faxon shot an even-par 72 and wound up third at 277.
Among those tied for fourth was Phil Mickelson, who was paired in the final round with Woods and Faxon and who had hoped to get the best of the world's No. 1 player in a head-to-head showdown. But Mickelson had to settle for a 72 for a 72-hole total of 278.
"He (Woods) played very well," Mickelson said. "There was no sign of any problem with his knee. The golf course is not playing that easy. I thought 2-under or 3-under would be a good round and he shot 4-under.
"I enjoy competing against him. I always have. But my success rate against him hasn't been very good."
While Mickelson continues to seek a breakthrough against Woods, attention will now turn to the world's second-ranked player. Els has actually made up ground on Woods in the world rankings this year and a confrontation between them will be highly anticipated.
But that may not come for a while.
Both are scheduled to compete week after next at the World Golf Championship Match Play and if they do meet there, it will be in the final. After that tournament, they may not play in the same event until the Bay Hill Invitational, which will be contested the week before the Players Championship and three weeks prior to the Masters.
In Perth, Australia, Els set a European Tour scoring record en route to a 10-stroke victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic.
The South African star had seven birdies and a bogey for a 6-under-par 66 at Lake Karrinyup Country Club, finishing the 72-hole event at 29-under 259.
Els broke the European Tour's 72-hole record in relation to par, finishing two strokes better than Jerry Anderson's winning total at the 1984 European Masters-Swiss Open.
Els has won four of his five starts this season, capturing the Mercedes and Sony Open on the PGA Tour and the Heineken Classic and Johnnie Walker Classic on the European circuit. His only loss was a runner-up showing in Singapore.
In the last five weeks, Els has earned just over $2.3 million.
Storm disrupts sports schedule
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A storm expected to dump up to 18 inches of snow on the East Coast disrupted the world of sports Sunday.
Monday's Presidents Day matinee between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors at the MCI Center was postponed and rescheduled for March 4 at 7 p.m. EST.
It marked the first NBA postponement since January 2000, when the Charlotte Hornets called off two games following Bobby Phills' fatal car accident.
Also in the Washington area, Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball game between 15th-ranked Maryland and 17th-ranked Wake Forest was postponed. It was tentatively rescheduled for Monday at 4 p.m.
A handful of other Division I schools postponed Monday games, including those in Spartansburg, S.C.; Athens, Ohio; Greensboro, N.C.; and Lynchburg, Va.
Spurs end amazing road trip
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The San Antonio Spurs ended one of the most amazing road trips in NBA history Sunday with a 104-101 win over Sacramento.
A rodeo at the SBC Arena sent the Spurs packing on a nine-game, 23-day road trip. The team made two brief return trips to San Antonio, but have not played at home since Jan. 25.
After beginning with a loss at Minnesota on Jan. 27, San Antonio rattled off nothing but wins. Friday's victory over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers made the Spurs the first team in NBA history to win seven straight games on the same road trip.
For the finale, the Spurs came to Arco Arena, where the Kings boasted a 20-4 mark in the loudest facility in the league. Led by Duncan, the Spurs played through the noise and distractions to beat Sacramento at home for the second time this season.
In Los Angeles, Allan Houston scored a career- and NBA season-high 53 points as the New York Knicks overcame another brilliant performance by Kobe Bryant for a 117-110 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were unexpectedly missing injured All-Star center Shaquille O'Neal.
It was the first 50-point game by a Knick since Patrick Ewing scored 50 against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 1, 1990. Houston tied Willis Reed's production at Los Angeles on Nov. 1, 1967 for the fourth-most in the team's history.
The tally by Houston, who hit 18 of 29 from the field and 13 of 15 from the line, came four days after Bryant scored 51 at Denver. Bryant scored 40 in this one, his ninth straight game with at least 35 and franchise record-tying fifth in a row with at least 40, matching Elgin Baylor's mark durng the 1962-63 campaign.
But the Lakers were missing O'Neal, who is day-to-day with a sore left knee. His replacement, Samaki Walker, was held scoreless, and starting forwards Rick Fox and Robet Horry combined for just 14 points.
Other NBA results: Philadelphia 90, New Jersey 83; Toronto 99, Orlando 97; Memphis 101, Milwaukee 95; Minnesota 109, Golden State 102; Atlanta 99, Indiana 86; New Orleans 100, Denver 92; Detroit 90, Cleveland 75; Phoenix 102, Boston 92.
Stars resume winning ways
DALLAS, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Defenseman Derian Hatcher had a goal and an assist Sunday night to boost the Dallas Stars past San Jose, 3-1.
The Stars suffered a rare loss Friday night in a 4-2 setback to Anaheim, but returned to their winning ways Sunday evening. Dallas has lost just twice in its last 22 games.
Vincent Damphousse scored on a two-man advantage for the Sharks, who fell to 1-5-0 on their seven-game road trip and remained 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with only 24 games left.
A preseason favorite by many to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history, the Sharks finish their back-breaking trip Monday night in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the Stars took over the top spot in the NHL, moving a point ahead of Ottawa.
The Dallas-San Jose game was the only NHL contest on the schedule Sunday night.
Jayhawks crush Iowa State
LAWRENCE, Kan., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- On the day Wayne Simien returned from a long absence and former Jayhawk Raef LaFrentz was honored, Kansas crushed Iowa State, Sunday, 70-51.
Simien missed 11 games with a dislocated right shoulder, but contributed seven points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. He was averaging 15.9 points and 8.7 rebounds before being sidelined.
LaFrentz, playing his fourth year in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, returned to see his jersey raised to the rafters. He also saw fellow Iowa natives Collison and Hinrich play against their home state team for the last time and help Kansas (19-5, 9-1 Big 12) win its 16th straight conference home game.
With the scheduled Maryland-Wake Forest game snowed out, the Jayhawks were the only top 25 team in action Sunday.
Agassi remains unbeaten in 2003
SAN JOSE, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Andre Agassi cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 6 Davide Sanguinetti to claim his record-tying fifth title Sunday at the Siebel Open.
Agassi tied John McEnroe for the most tournament wins in the Bay Area in the Open era (since 1968). He also captured the crown in 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1998 and reached the final in 1996, 2001 and 2002.
The top-seeded American, who improved his career mark here to 44-6, triumphed for the 12th time in as many matches this season. He opened the year by winning his eighth career Grand Slam at last month's Australian Open.
The 32-year-old Agassi earned $52,000 for his 56th career tournament victory.
Sanguinetti fell to 0-4 lifetime against Agassi and failed in his bid to capture his third career ATP title.
In Belgium, Venus Williams succesively defended her title at the Proximus Diamond Games by beating Belgium's Kim Clijsters.
Williams, the top seed, did not lose a set in the indoor event and posted a 6-2, 6-4 victory to improve to 4-2 lifetime against the second-seeded Clijsters.
Playing in only her second event of the year, Williams claimed her 28th career title. She retired with a knee injury during the first set of her last meeting with Clijsters at the season-ending WTA Tour championships in Los Angeles.
Kostelic completes brother-sister triumph
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Croatia's Ivica Kostelic made skiing history Sunday by winning the gold medal in the men's slalom at the World Championships.
Kostelic's victory came one day after his sister Janica's won in the same event, marking the first time a brother and sister have won World Championship gold in the same discipline.
Kostelic's time of 1 minute, 40.66 seconds was 0.33 better than Switzerland's Silvan Zurbriggen, who won the host country's first medal. Italian Giorgio Rocca took bronze, 0.03 seconds behind Zurbriggen.
American Bode Miller, winner of gold in the combined event and the giant slalom, finished sixth after losing his left pole in the first run. He also ran into trouble in the early stages of his second run but recovered brilliantly.
The championships came to an end with Austria having won nine medals and the United States six.
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