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Nemechek Gambles and Wins at Richmond

May 04, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Joe Nemechek overcame a pit-road blunder that cost him 24 spots by gambling on tires and getting help from late-race cautions and rain to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pontiac Excitement 400 Saturday night at Richmond, Va.

Nemechek was declared the winner during a red-flagged stoppage with 6 1/2 laps to go when rain showers that caused the pause persisted. The red flag followed three cautions in the last 30 laps that also helped him win despite his challengers' fresher tires.

Bobby Labonte was second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the top four spots.

The race featured a track-record 15 cautions for 91 laps, and the rain kept Labonte and Earnhardt from making a late push.

Gordon and Nemechek gambled by staying on the track with four others during a caution with 100 laps to go. When the race went back to green, Gordon was leading and Nemechek was fifth.

On Lap 331, Nemechek passed Gordon for the lead, then pulled away trying to extend his advantage. Chief among his pursuers was Earnhardt, who moved into second on Lap 355.

Nemechek had built his lead to almost two seconds and was easily passing lapped cars when Dale Jarrett spun out on the 363rd lap, the caution erasing the lead and setting up the closing shootout.

Nemechek held onto his lead through three more restarts, taking advantage of a duel for second in which Labonte finally passed Earnhardt, and then was handed the last 6 1/2 laps when the race was called.

The victory was a stunner for Nemechek, who seemed to have the best car in the first half of the race, then forced himself to prove it when he missed the turn for pit road and was shuffled from first to 25th place. *

Jerry Nadeau was in intensive care at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals in Richmond with head, lung and rib injuries from a crash during practice for the Pontiac Excitement 400, and his vital signs are "very good," said the team's general manager, Jay Frye.

Nadeau remained in critical condition. He has not spoken since the accident, Frye said, but has been communicating with visitors despite being sedated.

Nadeau continues to undergo tests, Frye said, but he could not specify what those tests were or what they have shown to this point.

He also could not say whether Nadeau was breathing on his own but said each time he has seen Nadeau, he looked better than the last time.

*

Michael Schumacher won the pole position for the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix for the fourth straight year, driving his Ferrari to the fastest time in qualifying. Schumacher, the two-time defending race champion, turned a lap on the 2.93-mile Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona in 1 minute 17.762.

*

Paul Tracy won the provisional pole for Monday's London Champ Car Trophy, securing a spot on the front row in his bid to become the first CART driver to win the first four races of the season. He covered the 1.192-mile circuit at Brands Hatch in 37.006 seconds.

Golf

Scott Verplank shot a five-under-par 67 to remain three strokes ahead of the field after the third round of the HP Classic of New Orleans.

Verplank's 195 total put him 21 under through 54 holes -- nearly matching the course record for 72 holes. Bob Estes shot his third 66 of the tournament and was in second place at 18-under 198.

Grace Park shot a two-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead in the Michelob Light Open at Williamsburg, Va. She had a nine-under 204 total, one stroke ahead of Cristie Kerr, who shot 68. LPGA Tour rookies Suzann Pettersen (71) and Lorena Ochoa (72) joined Hee-Won Han (68) three strokes behind Park.

Hale Irwin shot a five-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead over Bruce Fleisher and Tom Jenkins into the final round of the Bruno's Memorial Classic at Hoover, Ala.

Jack Nicklaus made a move in the second round of the Nationwide Tour's BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs, but he struggled in the third round, which was halted by hail. Nicklaus trails co-leaders Erik Meeks and Tripp Isenhour by seven shots at Travelers Rest, S.C.

Tennis

Top-seeded Venus Williams defeated unseeded Denisa Chladkova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 7-6 (5), to advance to the final of the J&S Cup at Warsaw.

Williams will play second-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France, who defeated fourth-seeded Jelena Dokic of Serbia and Montenegro, 7-5, 6-2.

Jarkko Nieminen of Finland reached the final of the BMW Open at Munich when Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia withdrew because of a neck injury.

Kafelnikov was trailing, 6-4, 1-0, when he dropped out. Nieminen will face top-seeded Roger Federer of Switzerland, who beat Stefan Koubek of Austria, 6-2, 6-1.

Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain advanced to the Valencia Open final by defeating Flavio Saretta of Brazil, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Ferrero, who improved to 16-1 on clay this season, will play Christophe Rochus of Belgium for the title. Rochus beat Fernando Vicente of Spain, 6-3, 6-2.

Soccer

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