In Sports from United Pres International

April 28, 2002 at 11:34 PM
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Jimmie Johnson wins first NASCAR race

FONTANA, Calif., April 29 (UPI) -- Californian Jimmie Johnson posted his first career victory Sunday as the 26-year-old driver from El Cajon defeated 23-year-old Kurt Busch by 0.62 seconds in the NAPA 500 NASCAR Winston Cup win at California Speedway.

Johnson celebrated the victory by spinning donuts on the track and eventually blowing up the motor in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

A vicious crash in the fourth turn that involved Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick on lap 229 set up the final dash to the checkered flag. Harvick had a tire deflate and was attempting to pull into the pits. Earnhardt did not see Harvick in time and the cars crashed into each other.

That sent Earnhardt's car shooting into the wall where it slammed hard in a head-on collision. Harvick was treated and released from the infield care center. Earnhardt was able to climb out of the car but was in obvious pain with an ankle injury. He left the care center on crutches.

Following the crash, the green flag waved on lap 237 with Bill Elliott leading Johnson and Ricky Rudd. Johnson and Rudd were able to pass Elliott on the backstretch and began to pull away from the Dodge driver, who did not take new tires during the final round of pit stops.

With 10 laps to go, Johnson held the lead but was being dogged by Rudd. Busch moved up to the rear of Rudd's bumper, setting up a three-car shootout.

Steve Grissom hit the wall with four laps to go, leaving debris on the track. However, NASCAR officials did not drop the yellow caution flag, attempting to finish under green.

Busch and Rudd went into a side-by-side battle, with Busch taking second with three laps to go. By then, Johnson was able to motor away for his first Winston Cup victory. Elliott was fourth in a Dodge, followed by Mark Martin's Ford Taurus.

LA Lakers sweep Portland

PORTLAND, Ore., April 29 (UPI) -- Scottie Pippen was victimized yet again by the Los Angeles Lakers, who took advantage of his mistakes down the stretch Sunday to complete another NBA playoff first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 92-91 victory.

One of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, Pippen won six championships as Michael Jordan's sidekick with the Chicago Bulls. But he left the Bulls as part of the dismantling of the dynasty after the 1997-98 season and has not come close to a championship since.

Pippen has spent one season with Houston and three with Portland. Each time, he has been eliminated from the playoffs by Los Angeles, going out in the first round three times.

This one had to be particularly painful. In the final 10 seconds, he missed a free throw, blew a defensive assignment and threw away an inbounds pass, turning a certain victory into a season-ending defeat.

The third-seeded Lakers eliminated the Trail Blazers for the third straight year, the last two being first-round sweeps. They await the winner of the series between San Antonio and Seattle as they pursue a third consecutive championship.

Mediate wins Greater Greensboro Classic

GREENSBORO, N.C., April 29 (UPI) -- - Rocco Mediate cruised to his fifth PGA Tour title Sunday, overcoming a record-tying performance by Mark Calcavecchia to win the Greater Greensboro Classic.

Mediate began the final round with a two-stroke edge and was never threatened. He carded a 1-under-par 71 and finished the 72-hole event at 16-under 272 -- three shots better than Calcavecchia.

Calcavecchia matched the PGA Tour record for putts during a 72-hole event with 93 but settled for his 24th career runner-up finish. Last year in Phoenix, he set the scoring mark for a four-round event en route to his 10th PGA Tour title.

Mediate claimed his second win at Greensboro, which is a home away from home for the Pennsylvania native and Florida resident. He also won the event in 1993.

The highest-ranked player in the field at No. 17, Mediate earned the $720,000 top prize to jump into the top 10 on the money list. Calcavecchia was Mediate's only threat Sunday, but he never got going, shooting a 72. Tour rookies Jonathan Byrd and Chad Campbell tied for third at 278. Byrd had the low round of the day with a 66.

Roddick outduels Sampras

HOUSTON, April 29 (UPI) -- Andy Roddick, the third seed, defended a title for the first time in his career Sunday, conquering fellow American and fourth-seeded Pete Sampras in the final of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships.

Roddick collected his fifth career ATP title as he beat Sampras for the second time in as many career meetings. He prevailed in their only previous encounter in the round of 32 at last year's Miami hardcourt championships.

The 19-year-old Roddick picked up the $51,000 winner's check as he improved his career record here to 12-0. The Florida resident also won two matches in Houston three weeks ago as the United States defeated Spain in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

As a wild-card entrant at the 2001 Houston event, Roddick triumphed over eighth-seeded Hyung-Taik Lee of Korea to capture his second career tour crown.

Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Sampras still has not added to his career haul of 63 titles since July 2000, when he won Wimbledon for the seventh time in eight years.

McLaren suspended from playoff series

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) -- Boston Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren was suspended for the rest of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals by the NHL on Sunday for his vicious hit on Montreal Canadiens right wing Richard Zednik in Game Four.

McLaren already sat out Game Five and will miss Game Six on Monday and Game Seven, if necessary, on Tuesday. The decision came one day after he attended a hearing before NHL executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell.

Thursday, McLaren leveled Zednik with a left forerarm to the face with 77 seconds left in the third period of the Bruins' 5-2 victory. McLaren was assessed a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure, which carries an automatic suspension.

Zednik, who scored a pair of power-play goals in Game Four, was on the ice for several minutes before being taken off on a stretcher. He was diagnosed with a severe concussion, broken nose, bruised throat and cut on his right eyelid but was released Saturday night from Montreal General Hospital.

Thorpe beats Jacobs in playoff

SUPERSTITION, Ariz., April 29 (UPI) -- Jim Thorpe claimed his first career major title in dramatic fashion Sunday, defeating John Jacobs in a playoff at The Tradition.

Thorpe sank a short birdie putt at the par-5 18th to force a playoff and another at the same hole to claim his fifth Senior PGA Tour title and the $300,000 top prize.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour in the 1980s, Thorpe was runner-up at last year's Senior PGA Championship--his only top-five finish in 12 previous Senior major starts.

Thorpe began the day a stroke behind Jacobs, who scrambled for par on the 72nd hole, but hit the right edge with a 3 ½-foot birdie putt in sudden-death and fell to 0-for-25 in Senior majors.

Thorpe and Jacobs finished the four-round event--the first at Superstition Mountain--at 11-under 277.

M. Schumacher wins Spanish Grand Prix

BARCELONA, Spain, April 29 (UPI) -- Michael Schumacher of Germany continued his recent dominance Sunday, driving his Ferrari to an easy victory at the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Schumacher captured his fourth victory in five grand prixs this year, taking the checkered flag in a backup car by 35.6 seconds over Colombian Juan Montoya in a Williams BMW.

The four-time world champion used a backup car after his 2002 Ferrari broke down with a hydraulic problem during morning practice. He led wire-to-wire, recorded his fourth career victory in Spain and 57th of his career.

David Coulthard of Scotland grabbed his second podium finish of the season in third place for McLaren Mercedes, 42.6 seconds behind Schumacher. Sauber Petronas teammates Nick Heidfeld of Germany and Filipe Massa of Brazil were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Austria finishes off U.S. in Fed Cup Tennis

CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 29 (UPI) -- Jennifer Capriati's rules violation may have put the United States in an early hole, but Austria's Barbara Schwartz buried the 17-time Federation Cup championship team Sunday.

Schwartz saved a match point Sunday, rallying to beat Meghann Shaughnessy, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 9-7, and clinch an eventual 3-2 victory for Austria over the top-seeded U.S. in their Fed Cup World Group first-round matchup. Schwartz also upset world No. 6 Monica Seles on Saturday.

Austria hosts Croatia in the quarterfinals, which are slated for July 20-21. Also in the next round, defending champion Belgium visits Italy, Spain welcomes Germany and France hosts the Slovakia.

The 26-year-old Capriati, who is 10-3 in Fed Cup play, was to meet Evelyn Fauth in the second singles match Saturday on the clay courts of the Olde Providence Racquet Club. Instead, the United States forfeited the match. Billie Jean King, the American captain, announced Friday that Capriati would not play in this weekend's matches after failing to comply with the "closed, team-only" practice policy.

In Sunday's other matches in Charlotte, Seles rolled past Fauth, 6-3, 6-3, and the American duo of Raymond and Shaughnessy defeated Marion Maruska and Schwartz, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).

The United States had won the 1999 and 2000 Fed Cups before pulling out of last year's final, citing security worries after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Meanwhile, second seed Belgium began defense of its title in the world's premier international women's team tennis competition with a 3-1 win over Australia in Brussels at the Royal Leopold Club.

Nicole Pratt of Austrailia rolled over Els Callens of Belgium, 6-2, 6-4. But Wimbledon runner-up Justine Henin clinched the tie with a 6-2, 6-1 rout of Alicia Molik of Australia.

The Belgian doubles team of Els Callens and Laurence Courtois were leading 7-6 (7-2) over the Australian tandem of Nicole Pratt and Rennae Stubbs when the match was abandoned due to rain.

Italy whitewashed Sweden, 5-0, at the Tennis Club Milano. The runner-up in the 2001 Fed Cup, Spain reeled off all three matches Sunday to post a 4-1 victory over Hungary at Almeria. France won both singles matches against Argentina on Sunday on the clay courts of the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club to secure a place in the last eight. Amelie Mauresmo defeated Paola Suarez, 6-4, 6-3, and Nathalie Dechy cruised past Mariana Diaz-Oliva, 6-2, 6-3. In the other first-round tie, the Slovakia pulled out a 3-2 win against Switzerland with a victory in the doubles match.

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