NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon took the pole at Richmond International Raceway… (Steve Helber / Associated…)
Jeff Gordon will try to race his way into NASCAR's playoffs from the pole position.
The four-time series champion turned a track-record qualifying lap of 130.599 mph at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Friday to win his 73rd career pole position, and his first this season.
His lap pushed Kurt Busch to the outside of the front row, increasing the tension once the green flag drops Saturday night for the 400-lap race.
Busch is 10th in points, and the top 10 after Saturday night's race earn automatic berths in the 10-race playoffs to finish the season. Gordon is 11th, six points behind, and needs to pass Busch or one of the other drivers now in the top 10 to assure himself a berth in the Chase for the championship.
In all, 10 drivers are fighting for the last five spots.
Brad Keselowski passed Brian Scott on a restart with 11 laps to go and pulled away after another restart with six laps remaining to go to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond. Keselowski has five victories and a runner-up finish in his last six series starts.
IndyCar fined Scott Dixon $30,000 and placed him on probation through the end of the year for disparaging comments after the Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Spain, Germany and Italy moved to the brink of qualification for the 2014 World Cup with victories Friday while Cristiano Ronaldo scored a second-half hat trick to keep Portugal on course for the tournament in Brazil.
The Netherlands' march to next summer's finals was slowed by a surprise 2-2 draw at lowly Estonia, with the Dutch rescued by an injury-time penalty kick from Robin van Persie, and England climbed atop its group with a 4-0 thrashing of Moldova.
World champion Spain seized the initiative in its battle with France for top spot in Group I by beating Finland, 2-0. France played to a scoreless tie at Georgia and is three points back in second with two matches left. Portugal came from 2-1 down to defeat Northern Ireland, 4-2, and stay atop Group F.
Isaac Hamilton, the highly regarded shooting guard from Bellflower St. John Bosco High, had his appeal denied by the National Letter of Intent committee. Hamilton had requested a release from the letter of intent he signed with Texas El Paso last November, when he became the centerpiece of former USC coach Tim Floyd's recruiting class.
Gregory Hamilton, Isaac's father, said even though the petition was denied, Gregory would not play for UTEP and will thus be ineligible to play in college this year.
New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith, the NBA's sixth man of the year, was suspended without pay for five regular-season games by the NBA for violating the anti-drug program The Oklahoma City Thunder waived guard DeAndre Liggins after he was charged with seven felony counts in a domestic-violence case.
Dick Mast took the first-round lead in the Champions Tour's Montreal Championship, shooting a three-under-par 69 on La Vallee du Richelieu's Rouville Course. The 62-year-old Mast, winless on the 50-and-over tour, leads Kenny Perry by a shot.
Usain Bolt closed out the season with another win in the 100 meters, finishing in 9.80 seconds in the Memorial Van Damme at Brussels. Justin Gatlin, the world silver medalist, got a quick start but faded to fourth in 9.94.