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Kurt Busch edges Jeff Gordon for Sprint Cup victory at Atlanta

The 30-year-old Busch matches his win total from all of last year.

March 09, 2009|Associated Press

Kurt Busch, a former NASCAR Cup champion who has been overshadowed lately by his sibling Kyle, drove to a dominating victory Sunday in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

The 30-year-old Busch led 234 of 330 laps, surviving a couple of scrapes with the wall and a late caution to pull away for a 0.332-second victory over Jeff Gordon.

Pole-sitter Mark Martin, who had become the second-oldest driver in Cup history to claim the top spot in qualifying, had another rough day after blowing engines the two previous weeks. He apparently cut a tire, smashed the wall and finished 31st, 14 laps down.

Busch led more laps Sunday than he did all of last season (164), when his only victory came in a rain-shortened race at Loudon, N.H.

"I've got to thank my guys," he said. "This car was unbelievable. I guess good things come to those who wait."

Gordon is still waiting for his first win since 2007, but he remained on top of the Sprint Cup standings.

"We're getting close," Gordon said. "We're going to keep knocking on the door until we get to Victory Lane."

With four laps to go, Robby Gordon shredded a tire to bring out the final caution flag of the race. Carl Edwards gambled as all the leaders ducked into the pits, changing only two tires so he got back on the track first.

Busch and Jeff Gordon each went with four new tires, coming out second and third behind Edwards. But the leader had no chance of holding off Busch on the two-lap finish, watching him blow by on the backstretch and cruise to the 19th victory of his career. Gordon also got by Edwards, who settled for third.

"That was the hand we were dealt," Edwards said. "I just wish we had four tires. Kurt did a good job. He was the fastest car all day."

Last year, Busch's only victory for Penske Racing was the result of strategy more than skill. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Kyle became a full-blown star, winning eight races before struggling in the championship playoff.

"I've got to hold up my end of the bargain," he said. "Kyle's on the gas right now."

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TENNIS

U.S. wins in Davis Cup

Andy Roddick swept past Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets at Birmingham, Ala., to give the United States a Davis Cup opening-round victory.

The win was emphatic: 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 -- and 4-1 for the U.S. Next up for the U.S. is Croatia in the quarterfinals July 10-12, just after Wimbledon.

Roddick's 31st Davis Cup win moved him past Andre Agassi into second place on the U.S. list, 10 behind John McEnroe.

"I'm kind of a nerd about the history of our sport," he said. "It was kind of in the back of my mind. There's probably a few moments in your career where you can sit back and be a little impressed.

"When you get mentioned with Andre, who I grew up watching . . . Andre was always the guy that everyone leaned on to come through. To kind of surpass him now is extremely surreal, but it's definitely one of those fun moments also."

James Blake topped Marco Chiudinelli, 6-4, 7-6 (6), for the final margin.

In other first-round series, Israel, the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany and Spain won Sunday to reach the quarterfinals. Croatia and Argentina advanced Saturday.

Agassi will make his return to competitive tournament tennis by participating in the 30-and-over Outback Champions Series event at Surprise, Ariz., in October.

Tour spokesman Randy Walker told the Associated Press on Sunday about Agassi's plans. The tour will make an official announcement today.

Among others who have played on the senior tour this year are Pete Sampras and McEnroe.

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ETC.

Pellegrini lowers record

Olympic champion Federica Pellegrini lowered her world record in the 200-meter freestyle at a swim meet in Riccione, Italy. Pellegrini clocked 1 minute 54.47 seconds, shaving 0.35 of a second off her winning time at the Beijing Olympics last year.

J.R. Celski of the United States won the 3,000-meter title and finished third in the 1,000 at the Short Track Speedskating World Championships at Vienna.

South Korea's Lee Ho-suk won the 1,000 in 1:33.060, ahead of American Apolo Anton Ohno, who finished in 1:33.262.

Celski was third but followed up by winning the 3,000 in 4:48.444. Lee was second in that event, with Canada's Charles Hamelin taking bronze.

The United States won the men's 5,000 relay in 6:51.400. China won the women's 3,000 relay in 4:10.531.

China's Wang Meng won the women's 1,000 in 1:29.878 and China's Zhou Yang won the women's 3,000-meter title in 4:58.955.

Doug Logan, the chief executive of USA Track and Field, recommended paying athletes $15,000 for setting a personal best at the Olympics, along with shortening trials for the Games, as two ways of improving the team's performance after a disappointing effort in Beijing.

His recommendations will need board approval to be implemented.

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