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Dario Franchitti easily wins IndyCar opener

The two-time series champion takes the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by more than seven seconds.

March 27, 2011|Staff and wire reports
  • Dario Franchitti celebrates after an easy win in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday.
Dario Franchitti celebrates after an easy win in the Honda Grand Prix of… (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)

Two-time defending series champion Dario Franchitti won IndyCar's season opener Sunday in Florida, showing he is again the one to beat in open-wheel racing.

Franchitti grabbed the lead early and was hardly challenged in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Scottish driver was nearly perfect for 100 laps on the scenic, 1.8-mile street course, beating pole-sitter Will Power to the finish line by more than seven seconds.

Tony Kanaan, the 2004 series champion who joined his new team March 21, held off Simona de Silvestro over the final few laps for third. De Silvestro enjoyed her best finish in 18 career starts.

Danica Patrick was 12th, a disappointing start to her seventh IndyCar season. Patrick, who drove four races in NASCAR's second-tier series before resuming her full-time IndyCar gig, was penalized one spot on the final lap for making "avoidable contact" with JR Hildebrand.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel opened his Formula One title defense by driving a flawless race and beating McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne.

Starting from the pole, Vettel maintained his lead after the first turn and had already opened a gap of more than two seconds over Hamilton after the first lap, and the German's lead was never seriously threatened.

The 23-year-old Vettel became the youngest F1 champion last year, finishing third in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP to edge Fernando Alonso by four points.

Renault's Vitaly Petrov was a surprise third, claiming his first podium finish with a strong showing.

ETC.

Tennessee hires Martin

Tennessee hired Missouri State's Cuonzo Martin to take over a Volunteers basketball program facing punishment by the NCAA for recruiting violations.

Martin, 39, replaces Bruce Pearl, who was fired March 21, a month after being accused of unethical conduct for lying to NCAA investigators.

Martin was hired in 2008 by Missouri State after eight years as an assistant at Purdue and was 61-41 in three seasons.

He was chosen this season's Missouri Valley Conference coach of the year after the Bears finished 26-9 and won the program's first MVC regular-season championship.

Kim Clijsters earned her 500th victory by beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in the Sony Ericsson Open at Key Biscayne, Fla.

Clijsters, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2010, advanced to the fourth round despite 10 double-faults and 39 unforced errors. Seeded second, Clijsters next plays No. 19 Ana Ivanovic, who won when Virginie Razzano retired trailing, 2-6, 6-2, 3-0.

Novak Djokovic extended his winning streak to 22 consecutive matches by beating wild card James Blake, 6-2, 6-0, in the third round.

Juan Martin del Potro earned his first win this year over a top-10 player by beating No. 4 Robin Soderling, 6-3, 6-2.

Santa Anita has decided not to have racing on Wednesdays for the final three weeks of its winter-spring meeting because of a lack of available horses. The track will run on a Thursday through Sunday schedule. The meeting ends April 17.

Eric Sondheimer

The Washington Nationals traded hot-tempered outfielder Nyjer Morgan to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor league infielder Cutter Dykstra and cash.

Dykstra is the son of former major leaguer Lenny Dykstra. The trade came two days after Milwaukee sent outfielder Chris Dickerson to the New York Yankees for pitcher Sergio Mitre.

Former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who turned 40 Friday, is set to agree to a deal to play for the Tulsa Shock, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press.

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