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Sports Extra

auto racing

Patrick makes history, wins pole for Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick has won the Daytona 500 pole, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR’s top circuit.

It was the biggest achievement of her stock-car career.

“We have a lot more history to make, and we’re eager to do it,” Patrick said.

Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session Sunday and covered the 2˝-mile superspeedway in 45.817 seconds, averaging 196.434 mph.

She waited about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot. Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off.

Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph in qualifying. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

Skiing

Colorado to host world championships in 2015

SCHLADMING, Austria – The U.S. will host the next skiing world championships in Colorado in 2015.

Organizers finished cutting trees for two new women’s courses in Beaver Creek over the summer alongside the existing men’s Birds of Prey track.

All medal events for the Feb. 2-15, 2015, championships will be in Beaver Creek, while Vail – which is about 10 miles away – will host the team event and qualifying races.

It’s the third time Vail-Beaver Creek is hosting the worlds after 1989 and 1999 and the fourth overall in the U.S. after Aspen in 1950.

U.S. standout Lindsey Vonn lives in Vail and rising talent Mikael Shiffrin is from Eagle-Vail, just west of Vail.

track and field

Pistorius’ career put on hold as he deals with defense

JOHANNESBURG – Oscar Pistorius’ track career was put on hold indefinitely Sunday because of his murder charge, reinforcing the possibility that the double-amputee Olympian and disabled sports icon might never run again competitively on his famous carbon fiber blades.

Pistorius’ agent was forced to cancel all future races, he said, so Pistorius could concentrate on defending himself against allegations he murdered his model girlfriend by shooting her several times in his upscale house on Valentine’s Day morning.

Reeva Steenkamp died from gunshot wounds suffered inside Pistorius’ home in the predawn hours of Thursday. Pistorius was arrested and charged with her murder the same day. His family denies he murdered her.

“I have decided that following these tragic events that we have no option but to cancel all future races that Oscar Pistorius had been contracted to compete in,” agent Peet van Zyl said in a written statement late Sunday night.

A few hours earlier, Van Zyl had visited his athlete at a police station in the South African capital, Pretoria, where he is being held in custody in a red-bricked, one-story building with green metal fencing.

golf

Merrick not only plays at home, he wins at home

LOS ANGELES – John Merrick was a young face in the crowd at Riviera for so many years, dreaming of one day playing the fabled course on the PGA Tour.

On Sunday, he did better than that. He won on it.

Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to two pars in a sudden-death playoff and won the Northern Trust Open on Sunday when Charlie Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole.

Merrick, who closed with a 2-under 69, became only the ninth player make this tournament his first PGA Tour victory. It could not have come at a better place. Merrick grew up in Long Beach, attended this event as a kid and went to school down the street at UCLA.

It was a tough finish for Beljan. He holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close with a 4-under 67 and wind up in a playoff.

Associated Press