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New Mexico sports from KRQE News 13 and KASA Fox 2.
Updated: 8 hours 32 min ago

Lobo women’s basketball falls by 1 point to Wyoming

February 21, 2018 - 11:17pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico women’s basketball team came one point short of avoiding a sweep to Mountain West leader Wyoming Wednesday night. Lobos center Jaisa Nunn banked home a shot at the buzzer, but it was not enough.

The Lobos fell 63-62.The Lobos struggled with their game plan against Wyoming. “I felt like we didn’t follow the plan all of the way,” said Lobos center Jaisa Nunn. “We made a lot of mental mistakes, and we have to get better in following the game plan.” Lobos head coach Mike Bradbury took some of the responsibility after the game.”I feel like I didn’t do my job in making it clearly understood,” said Bradbury. Nunn had 19 points and 9 rebounds in the loss.

Cherise Beynon got into foul trouble and had 13 points and 4 assists for the Lobos. Tesha Buck finished the game with 11 points. Wyoming had three players in double figures led by Selale Kepenc, who had 15 points. With the victory Wyoming improved to 12-3 in the Mountain West and 19-7 overall. The Lobos fall to 8-7 in league play and 20-8 overall. The Lobos are at UNLV Saturday.

Categories: Sports [External]

NASCAR heads to Atlanta with a Daytona 500 hangover

February 21, 2018 - 11:48am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Austin Dillon is still celebrating his Daytona 500 victory and Bubba Wallace is relishing his sudden breakout as NASCAR’s newest star.

Denny Hamlin? Well, he’s in the middle of another feud, and it’s only the second week of the season.

NASCAR moves from the Daytona 500 this weekend to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a bit of a hangover from the biggest party of its season.

Hamlin earned a call to the NASCAR hauler for a comment he made last week on the ”Barstool Sports” podcast in which he claimed 70 percent of NASCAR drivers take the prescription drug Adderall to help with concentration.

Adderall is on NASCAR’s banned substance list without a doctor prescription.

Hamlin claimed it was a joke made on an irreverent podcast, but Wallace didn’t let it go after nudging Hamlin for second place in the Daytona 500. The two raced door-to-door to the finish, and Hamlin has repeatedly said the contact cut his tire.

But after his historic second-place finish – Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969 – he took a shot at Hamlin for the final lap racing that in Hamlin’s mind went too far.

”He might need to take some Adderall for that one,” Wallace said on the Fox broadcast after he climbed from his car.

Told of the crack in his post-race news conference, Hamlin again maintained Wallace’s contact had cut his tire. He didn’t respond to the Adderall mention and exited the room.

Once outside the media center, he bumped into Wallace, and the two had a brief but heated exchange.

Public sentiment is on Wallace’s side – few fans have forgiven Hamlin since he wrecked Chase Elliott at Martinsville last fall – and Hamlin angrily took to Twitter to tell his side of the story.

Hamlin late Tuesday night called his Twitter critics ”idiots,” and explained he had no beef about the ending of the race. His problem was the final question of his news conference, when he was asked for a response to Wallace’s remark.

”I had no issue until not only did he place blame on me but then went on to make personal comments about myself. I left the media center and saw Bubba 30 secs later,” Hamlin posted in a series of tweets.

”Anyone who wouldn’t take offense to the stupid things that was said has absolutely no backbone. I have one,” he concluded.

Wallace was dubious of Hamlin’s take on the last-lap racing on Sunday night, but believed the two would move on to Atlanta and be fine. He did, however, wonder if he was going to be kicked out of the Hamlin-led recreational basketball and golf leagues.

Turns out, though, that it wasn’t just NASCAR that was annoyed with Hamlin’s Adderall assessment.

Kevin Harvick used his Tuesday night SiriusXM show to note plenty of drivers are upset with Hamlin.

”Those 70 percent of drivers he referred to are mad,” Harvick said. ”Whether he thinks it was an off-the-cuff comment and something he meant to say or not to say, it still offended most everybody in the garage. If you’re going to play around, joking and think it’s not something that everybody is going to take offense to. I think he’s probably seeing that nobody really appreciated it and it put everybody in a bad spot.”

Angry drivers are just one of many things to keep an eye on at Atlanta.

There are so far only 36 cars entered for Sunday’s race, which would make it the smallest field in decades. Only 39 cars competed at Atlanta last year, and that was the smallest field in 20 years.

NASCAR had allowed a maximum 43 cars starting in 1998, and hit that number until only 42 cars showed up at a 2014 race in Kentucky. Under the charter system, with only 36 cars guaranteed spots in the field, NASCAR cut the field to a maximum of 40 each week.

But the bulk of the purse goes to the chartered teams, and it’s a financial burden for ”open” cars to show up every week and fight for the remaining four slots in the field.

The new charter system meant that only 40 cars tried to make the Daytona 500, which made the qualifying races pointless because no driver was battling for a spot in the field. Asked about the small car counts at Daytona, NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said the series prefers a strong entry list over backmarkers and field fillers.

”I think it is one of the best fields we’ve had, it’s deep,” O’Donnell said. ”In the future, would we like to see more? We probably would. But when you look across all of sports now, the idea of sending someone home with a major sponsor, it just doesn’t happen in sports today. It’s not just a reality for NASCAR, it’s all motorsports, and sports in general.”

Team owner Roger Penske also wasn’t bothered by the field size.

”What we need is the continuity with all the same drivers and cars running across the whole season,” he said. ”I think this is really a sign of the times, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

And, keep an eye on the Toyota teams, especially Martin Truex Jr.

The most dominating manufacturer of 2017 came up empty at Daytona, and Truex, the defending series champion, led just four laps in three races. Toyota drivers did not win a single Cup event at Daytona.

But Atlanta at 1.54-miles is in Truex’s wheelhouse, and he won seven races on intermediate tracks last year. Truex’s average finish last year in 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks was second.

”While Daytona is the biggest and most prestigious race to win, the season actually starts at a downforce track,” Truex said. ”Atlanta should give us a good indication how we fare against the competition.”

So, yeah, NASCAR rolls its show into Atlanta with everyone mad at Hamlin, Wallace out to prove he’s the real deal and Truex and the Toyota camp trying to reclaim their footing.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a long season.

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/

Categories: Sports [External]

Lobos stop Wyoming in high scoring game; Logwood and Simons score 24 each

February 20, 2018 - 11:15pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico and Wyoming filled the rim Tuesday night as the Lobos pulled out a 119-114 victory in Laramie. Sam Logwood talked about never winning in Wyoming to KRQE Monday. He made sure the victory would come his senior year. Logwood scored 24 points and pulled down 9 rebounds in the Lobos win.

It’s the Lobos first win in Laramie since January 8 of 2014. It also gives the Lobos a sweep of the season series and unlocks a tie with Wyoming and UNLV at fourth place in the Mountain West. The Lobos only led 55-53 at the half. Troy Simons came out in the second half and quickly established that he would be a problem for the Cowboys defensively.

At one point Simons had his own 7 to nothing run that included a steal. The Lobos found themselves up 65-58 at that point. The Lobos continued add to their lead and went up by as much as 15 points. Makuach Maluach continued his strong play as the Lobo freshman contributed 20 points in the victory. Lobos guard Chris McNeal had 17 points, 6 assists and 3 steals.

Dane Kuiper had 11 points for the Lobos. He hit his first three point bucket early in the game to give the Lobos 302 deep balls on the season to break a record set during the 1997-98 season. With the win the Lobos improved to 9-6 in Mountain West play and 14-14 overall. Wyoming dropped to 8-7 in league play and 17-11 overall. The win was only the Lobos third on the road this season. The Lobos host UNLV Sunday. The game will be played at noon mountain time and broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Categories: Sports [External]

Dying teen achieves dream of joining Lobo Women’s Tennis Team

February 20, 2018 - 5:50pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A dying 16-year-old’s dream is to be part of the Lobo Women’s Tennis Team.

Tuesday, the University of New Mexico made it happen.

“We are proud to announce that Megan Callison-Martinez will be joining our team today and signing a national letter of intent,” Lobo Tennis Coach Stephanie Wooten-Quijada said.

It was signing for Megan Callison-Martinez.

The teen has cystic fibrosis, autism and is not eligible for a lung transplant that could save her. She’s currently on pediatric hospice and has to stay within 20 minutes from UNM Hospital.

She has been going to watch the Lobo Women’s Tennis Team Practice and Tuesday, she became one of them.

“We don’t have nine members, we have 10. That’s perfect. She’s a wonderful person, a ray of sunshine. We just love having her,” tennis player Diana Wong said.

“What kind of stuff she likes…they even took it upon themselves to watch the shows she likes so they had dialogue to talk to her,” Megan’s mom, Jana Callison, said.

The team is even holding a fundraiser for Megan and her family.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up to pay for things for Megan to do near UNM, like going to the theatre and movies.

To donate, click here. 

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Categories: Sports [External]

Louisville must vacate basketball title, NCAA denies appeal

February 20, 2018 - 2:09pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville officials are not happy with the NCAA’s decision that mandates the school vacate its 2013 men’s basketball championship in the wake of an embarrassing sex scandal and interim President Greg Postel did not hide his disappointment.

While acknowledging the scandal was unacceptable, Postel believes the school’s cooperation should have counted for more than it did. But Tuesday, Louisville announced that an NCAA appeals panel had upheld sanctions against the men’s program. As a result, the Cardinals have to vacate not only the championship but 122 other victories and return some $600,000 in conference revenue from the 2012-15 NCAA Tournaments.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong,” Postel said Tuesday. “We disagree with the NCAA ruling for reasons we clearly stated in our appeal. And we made a strong case — based on NCAA precedent – that supported our argument.”

It may have been a strong case, but the NCAA had its own convictions.

The decision by the governing body’s Infraction Appeals Committee ruled that the NCAA has the authority to take away championships for what it considers major rule violations. It also refuted Louisville’s position that the NCAA exceeded its boundaries and didn’t follow its own precedent established in other cases and said in an eight-page decision that upheld the penalties.

Louisville now must forfeit its third NCAA title, victories and income from 2011-15, part of the timeframe during which the violations occurred. The decision is the culmination of the NCAA’s investigation that followed allegations in a 2015 book by escort Katina Powell that former Cardinals basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits.

Pitino has repeatedly denied knowing about the activities described in Powell’s book, but the blemish on the program will never be forgotten — not after Tuesday’s sanctions.

Besides taking down the red-and-white banner hanging beside the American flag and two other title flags in the Cardinals’ downtown arena, Louisville must erase wins before and after that championship along with other records. It wasn’t immediately clear when that would happen as the school works to fulfill the penalties.

Louisville’s compliance throughout the process was followed by Postel’s defiant tone addressing the decision.

“From Day One, the university has admitted that the actions of the former operations director and any others involved under previous leadership were offensive and inexcusable,” Postel said in his statement. “That is why we apologized immediately, cooperated fully with the NCAA, self-imposed penalties that were appropriate to the offenses and made significant changes to ensure incidents like this never happen again.

“Under the NCAA’s own rules, this cooperation should have been a factor in the severity of the punishment. Instead, it was ignored.”

Interim athletic director Vince Tyra said the NCAA process was “unusual” compared to a federal organization such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), where he said guidelines are more black-and-white.

“With the NCAA, there are bylaws which seem to be guidelines and then there’s great discretion on the guidelines,” Tyra said. “It’s very difficult to follow and set precedent. That was certainly an unusual experience.”

The school’s own investigation into the allegation revealed that violations occurred and resulted in a self-imposed postseason ban nearly two years ago. Louisville later imposed scholarship and recruiting restrictions in an effort to mitigate further NCAA discipline.

While the NCAA accepted Louisville’s actions, it went further with harsher sanctions last June that included:

— A five-game suspension of former Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, who was fired in October following Louisville’s acknowledgment that it was being investigated in a federal bribery probe of college basketball. That measure included a show-cause penalty for Pitino, whom the NCAA criticized for failing to monitor McGee and ignoring multiple red flags;

— Four years’ probation, along with the vacation of those wins and appearances in the 2012 and 2013 Final Fours;

— Show-cause penalties for McGee, who is no longer coaching;

— Postel estimates the return of about $600,000 in NCAA Tournament revenue.

“This dark cloud has hung over our heads for more than two years, and it has had a negative impact on our athletics program, our fans and the entire university family,” Postel said. “While we disagree with the NCAA’s decision, it is time for the university to close this chapter and move forward with a stronger commitment to excellence on and off the court.”

Interim coach David Padgett said he talked to his team about the announcement and texted several former players from that title squad, reminding them of their achievement.

“This doesn’t change what you did. You won 16 games in a row, you went 35-5 and cut down the nets in Atlanta,” Padgett said he told former players. “You don’t need a banner to know you’re a national champion.”

Still, nothing will be same at Louisville.

Padgett is part of the many changes at Louisville in the months following the NCAA penalties. Pitino was placed on unpaid administrative leave and former AD Tom Jurich on paid administrative leave on Sept. 27 following the school’s involvement in the FBI probe that initially involved the arrests of 10 people. Padgett has taken over the men’s program and Tyra has replaced Jurich.

Categories: Sports [External]

Lobo men’s basketball in a Mountain West jam with 2 other teams

February 19, 2018 - 9:25pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With four games to go on the Mountain West schedule Paul Weir and his Lobos find themselves tied for fourth with Wyoming and UNLV. All three teams have an 8-6 conference record. The Lobos and Wyoming can settle the tie between one another when they meet in Laramie, Tuesday night.

The Lobos won the first meeting against the Cowboys in Albuquerque 75-66. Both teams are also coming off of a victory. The Lobos have something they haven’t had most of the conference season, a full compliment of players. Opponents who go into Laramie are very aware of how tough it is to win there.

A tough battle is what the Lobos want to help them continue to grow. “We want the most adversity we can handle,” said Weir. “The most challenges we can get because we have so many guys we are kind of reinserting into our lineup getting together. We don’t need easy games. We don’t need stuff like that. We need the most challenging stuff we can get so we can continue to grow and improve as a team.”

The Lobos have played the season with a lot of new faces. Many of the newcomers are making the trip to Laramie for the first time and will find out that it is a unique place. “It’s definitely a different place,” said Lobos guard/forward Sam Logwood. “There’s not too many distractions there. It’s definitely a long trip for us. I think the guys will be shocked to see what kind of journey we’re about to go on.”

It’s a journey Logwood, who is now a senior, has made multiple times coming up empty every trip. “I haven’t beaten them on their home court,” said Logwood. “I feel like some of the guys that’s been here for awhile…it’s something we can try and accomplish this year as a team.” The Lobos and Cowboys have a 7 p.m. Mountain start time in Laramie Tuesday.

Categories: Sports [External]

Lobos’ Elijah Lilly likes the idea of becoming a receiver

February 19, 2018 - 9:04pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Elijah Lilly averaged nearly 24 yards per return while returning 31 kickoffs for the University of New Mexico Lobos in his sophomore season last year. It was his performance at one game in particular that got Lobos Coach Bob Davie thinking about getting Lilly on the field more often.

In addition to his kickoff return duties, Lilly also played as a defensive back for the Lobos. Davie has switched the speedster to receiver.

“I made the decision probably when he was running that kickoff against Texas A&M,” said Davie. “He needs to touch the ball. You know, he is too dynamic with his hands on the ball and particularly with what we are doing on offense. We will maybe spread out just a little bit more.”

Lilly returned a touchdown for 100 yards in the game against A&M last season. It will be awhile before he runs another one back or even play receiver for the Lobos. The Lobos are in spring ball at the moment, but Lilly is recovering from labrum surgery. He can only watch and get mental reps while he heals.

“I knew I had to get surgery eventually,” said Lilly. “I messed up my shoulder in high school actually. I didn’t know it was that bad. I went to the doctor. They told me I just strained my rotator cuff and then coming in through freshman year I had fell on it and I knew there was something wrong.”

While he waits Lilly can dream of what the season might hold for his speed at a new position.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Lilly. “I’m happy to get out there with my teammates and just put us in the best opportunity to win as many games as we can.”

The Lobos are in their second week of spring football.

Categories: Sports [External]

New Mexico’s Cassidy Cox wins gold at World Archery Indoor Championships

February 19, 2018 - 8:52pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Cassidy Cox will return to New Mexico with gold. The 19-year-old archer upset top-seed Elisa Roner of Italy at the World Archery Indoor Championships in the compound junior women’s gold medal match in Yankton, South Dakota, Monday. Cox had to come from behind to win 145-143.

In a statement to the World Archery website about the match Cox said, “I started off from behind, and then I also shot an eight somewhere in there. I was pretty nervous, and shaky. I thought, there’s nothing I can really do now except make good shots, that’s all I can really do.”

Earlier in the day, Cox and Team USA defeated Team Canada for a gold medal as a squad. It was a very good day for USA team members. Every U.S. compound archer shooting at the world championships won a gold medal.

Categories: Sports [External]

MLB imposes stricter mound limits, defers on pitch clocks

February 19, 2018 - 11:03am

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball is imposing stricter limits on mound visits in an effort to speed games but decided against 20-second pitch clocks for 2018.

After more than a year of negotiations, the Major League Baseball Players Association refused to agree to the changes but also signed an agreement that it will not oppose the new rules.

The new rules announced Monday include a general limit of six mound visits per nine-inning game without a pitching change, whether by a manager, coach or player. The changes also attempt to force half innings to start on time.

MLB has the right to make playing rules changes without an agreement with one year notice and made both proposals during the 2016-17 offseason.

Categories: Sports [External]

Austin Trout wins on Saturday by way of a Unanimous Decision

February 18, 2018 - 11:04pm

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE)- Riding a two fight losing streak coming into his fight on Saturday, Austin Trout needed a win and he delivered on Saturday night in the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

Trout would go the distance in an 8 round fight. He would get the Unanimous Decision win marking his first win since 2015. The now 34 year old boxer said he felt great after the fight.

“It felt good the win was good. I was starting to get back into a rhythm and I felt sharper. Now I wish I had 2 more rounds”, said Austin Trout.

With this win Trout’s record now stands at 31-4, and moving forward he says he still has gas in the tanks, and fueling to that fire to continue his career was the crowd that showed up on Saturday.

“We need to fight more at home man. Like the people they showed up and showed out, the energy was crazy, the love was overwhelming, and we need to come back. With a bigger better fight, possibly a title fight”, said Austin Trout.

Categories: Sports [External]

UNM’s Marcus Williams dealt with a case of mistaken identity on Social Media

February 18, 2018 - 11:01pm

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE)- Cleveland High School Graduate and now sophomore tight end on the Lobo football team, Marcus Williams had a weird situation arise during this year’s NFL playoffs. The 6’3 tight end does play college football, but not in the NFL, that was not clear to some people on social media as he was thought to be Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints.

After Williams of the Saints missed a huge tackle in the playoffs, twitter erupted and UNM’s Williams felt the heat. “I got a lot of notifications. I was like no that’s not me. I don’t want that reputation right now. I had me twitter, I had about a hundred people hit me up and then I had it on snapchat everybody just Marcus Williams send me videos. I got here it was Marcus Williams did that. Marcus Williams messed up. Marcus Williams made this play. It’s kind of funny. I just let it roll off my back”, said Marcus Williams.

Categories: Sports [External]

Chester’s Pick 6: The Top 6 Plays or Players from the week

February 18, 2018 - 10:57pm

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE)- In this week’s edition of the Pick 6 we highlight the great performances for the week in sports. We showcase highlights from high school wrestling, college hoops, and a little professional Track and Field. Here is the list:

  1. Nick Rino
  2. Anthony Mathis
  3. Jennisis Martinez
  4. Sam Logwood
  5. Eldorado Boys Swim Team
  6. Christian Coleman
Categories: Sports [External]

Donald Cerrone Snaps 3 fight losing streak with a knockout on Sunday

February 18, 2018 - 10:56pm

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE)- Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone bettered his professional record to 33-10 after knocking out Yancy Medeiros in the 1st round of the UFC Fight Night 126 main event. Cerrone and Medeiros showed a lot of respect towards each other before, during and after this fight, but with time dwindling in the 1st round Cerrone would strike.

The Cowboy hit Medeiros with a flurry of punches and finished the fight with a knockout. This marks Cerrone’s 15th career first round knockout, and also with this win it ties the record for most wins in the UFC, as Cerrone has 20.

“Yeah and I just bit down and said you know what lets go. I didn’t even know there was 10 seconds left either, I was just going for the finish. That’s what Yancy and I both look for and hey you know what’s cool is I just tied for most wins in UFC history”, said Donald Cerrone.

Now as for the other local fighter on the card, Joby Sanchez wouldn’t have as good of a night. Joby lost in his return to the UFC on Sunday by way of a first round rear naked choke. Roberto Sanchez would take down Joby and then proceed to get on his back and finish the fight in the first round.

With this loss Joby Sanchez’s record drops to 11-3.

Categories: Sports [External]

Wallace in 2nd: Best Daytona 500 finish for black driver

February 18, 2018 - 7:28pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Darrell Wallace Jr. let the weight of his milestone in the Daytona 500 wallop him once he saw mom. He sobbed as Desiree Wallace bounded onto the dais and wrapped her arms around her son for a hug neither wanted to end.

”You did that thing, baby ,” she said, sobbing. ”I’m so proud of you. You have waited so long, baby.”

Wallace’s runner-up finish in the No. 43 Chevrolet to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 suddenly felt like a checkered flag.

”You act like we just won the race,” he said, laughing.

”We did win that race, baby. I love you. I’m so proud of you,” Desiree Wallace said.

”Dangit, mom!” Wallace said.

His brief moment of levity gave way to an embrace with his sister Brittany, who as child coined the ”Bubba” nickname that has stuck to this day for Wallace.

”There’s no good story about it,” Brittany Wallace said, laughing.

Wallace bawled some more into a towel before he finally composed himself.

”Pull it together, bud. Pull it together,” he told himself. ”You just finished second. It’s awesome.”

Wallace carved a slice of NASCAR history Sunday night in only his fifth career start when he posted the best finish by a black driver in the Daytona 500. Wallace was the first black driver to start the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott in 1969. Scott was 13th in the 1966 race, the previous best finish for a black driver at Daytona.

Wallace, the son of a white father and black mother, was feted by sports royalty on his big day, and not just from his team owner, Richard Petty. Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron wished him luck on a phone call and four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton tweeted his support.

RPM majority owner Andrew Murstein surprised Wallace before the race when he told him ”Hammerin’ Hank” was on the line.

”I’m like, what? That’s awesome,” he said. ”I was pretty excited about that.”

The 24-year-old Wallace was one of the stars of Speedweeks. He topped the speed chart at practice, qualified seventh and was a fixture on social media pushing his new show on the Facebook Watch show page. Fans flocked to him for selfies, and cameras trailed him from pit road to the media center on Sunday to chronicle his feat. Wallace tried to enjoy the moment following an uncertain 2017 when he lost sponsorship and his ride in the second-tier Xfinity Series. He caught a break when he filled in for an injuried Aric Almirola in four races for RPM last year, an opportunity to led to full-time ride this season.

He handled the pressure with ease – until he collapsed in tears in the presence of family.

”I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do,” Wallace said. ”My family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. ”

Mom had a brief scare when she thought Wallace was involved in a late-race wreck and was tagged into the wall. Then she got lost on pit road and was late to the media center.

But now, it’s party time.

”He’ll probably want a Domino’s pizza or Goldfish,” she said.

Wallace hinted at family turmoil the last two years, one reason why the tears could not stop flowing. But with his mother and sister by his side, Wallace knew his two biggest fans were still in his corner.

”I knew it was just a matter of time. He worked so hard to get there,” Desiree Wallace said. ”I’m so excited for him because we’ve just been through so much the last couple of years. He’s done so much trying to prove himself to everyone.

”I think tonight he proved to the NASCAR world that he belongs here.”

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/

Categories: Sports [External]

Stewart-Haas teammates Almirola, Busch distraught at Daytona

February 18, 2018 - 7:21pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Teammates Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch had better-than-decent shots at winning the Daytona 500.

Both were wrecked while at or near the front late in ”The Great American Race.”

They were equally distraught.

”My heart is broken,” Almirola said following an 11th-place finish. ”So devastated. I thought I was going to win the Daytona 500. Just disappointed.”

Almirola was leading on the final lap when Austin Dillon got a big run on the outside. Almirola moved to block him, but Dillon ran into his right-rear quarter panel and turned him into the wall. Dillon slid by and drove onto to victory.

”He’s not driving too aggressively,” Almirola said. ”He’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was. I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t going to just let him have it. … This one is going to hurt for a while.”

At least he will get some sympathy back at the race shop.

Almirola’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch, led two laps (195-96) and was running second and trying to pass leader Denny Hamlin when Ryan Blaney got him sideways and triggered ”The Big One” with two laps to go in regulation.

”I was feeling the magic,” said Busch, the defending race winner who was trying to become the fourth to go back-to-back in the Daytona 500. ”I thought we could do it again. We found the right drafting lanes and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle it seemed like when Hamlin blocked us.

”Maybe I should have just flung (Hamlin), but you have to treat guys with respect and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”

Busch finished 26th.

Here are some other story lines that got overshadowed by Dillon driving the famed No. 3 Chevrolet back to victory lane at Daytona on the anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death and 20 years after “The Intimidator” won his lone Daytona 500 :

HENDRICK WOES

The revamped lineup at Hendrick Motorsports endured as much trouble in the race as any team.

Seven-time Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson wrecked for the third time in a week when he was caught in a nine-car crash right before the end of the first stage. He was collected in the crash that began when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to block Ryan Blaney, and the cars behind them had to avoid Stenhouse’s moves.

”It looked like everybody thought that was the finish of the Daytona 500 and it was really only lap 59 coming to 60,” Johnson said.

Johnson also wrecked in two previous races at Speedweeks.

The day just got worse for Hendrick Motorsports in the second stage when Chase Elliott was turned hard into the wall while running second.

William Byron and pole-sitter Alex Bowman also crashed later.

UNHERALDED HEROS

There were a number of unheralded drivers who posted surprising results in the Daytona 500.

Chris Buescher of JTG Daugherty Racing was fifth, Michael McDowell of Front Row Motorsports was ninth and Justin Marks of Rick Ware Racing finished 12th. McDowell and Marks are both one-car-team wonders that about made their season with their strong finishes.

Vietnam War veteran and 66-year-old driver Mark Thompson finished 22nd in just his second career Cup race. Thompson made his first Cup start in 1992 and the ARCA vet was set to retire following the race. Thompson drove the No. 66 car in honor of his age and had a better finish than former Daytona 500 winners Johnson, Busch and Kevin Harvick.

BLANEY FLATERS

Blaney was the runner-up in the Daytona 500 a year ago and came back with a car capable of winning.

But after leading a race-high 118 laps, Blaney’s shot at the victory fell apart. He had the race in control until a caution set up a restart, and Blaney made the wrong moves in trying to wrap up the win.

He found himself in a back-and-forth race with Busch and Hamlin in which the three were swapping positions and trying to make it to the finish line. But with two laps to go in regulation, Blaney bumped Busch from behind to trigger a 12-car accident.

Blaney finished seventh, but left Daytona as the Cup points leader.

”This one definitely stings, but hopefully we can get another shot at it one day,” Blaney said.

More AP auto racing: http://www.racing.ap.org

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Junior at peace with Daytona 17 yrs after Earnhardt’s death

February 18, 2018 - 7:11pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Dale Earnhardt Jr. made peace with Daytona International Speedway long ago.

Seventeen years after his dad’s death, Earnhardt had only positive vibes Sunday at the famed racetrack where his father died. Dale Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

”When he passed away here, I had two choices: I could hate this place for it or it could become even more special to me and I could become even more connected to it because of that circumstance,” Earnhardt said Sunday. ”I chose to embrace the track more. I knew how special this place was to my dad, so it’s more meaningful to me personally maybe than to a lot of the other competitors as the cornerstone of our series and birthplace of speed and all the things, you know, `The Great American Race.’

”I made peace a long time ago with what happened and decided to remember this as the place where he lost his life. That’s, to me, a positive, not a negative. I didn’t want to feel any negative feelings when I came here because I love Daytona, love this track and I love the history. I want to be rooted in this sport and that means I want to be at Daytona when they race here. That was the choice I made a long time ago and feel very comfortable here.”

The two-time Daytona 500 winner retired last season and was back at the track in a much different role. He served as grand marshal and delivered an enthusiastic ”Drivers, start your engines” to start the race. He kept it ”pretty traditional” while wearing a 1987 Speedweeks T-shirt. But he was definitely energized as he got the race started.

He said he doesn’t dwell on the anniversary of his father’s passing, but was aware of his father’s presence at Daytona.

”I try to make him proud in everything I do, but I don’t feel an instinct to do anything to honor him,” Junior said. ”His fans do that on a pretty regular basis. They love to talk about him and remember him, so you hear about him everywhere you go. As I’ve been around the track the last couple days, I’ve had a lot of conversations about Dad already. It’s always good.”

Earnhardt watched the race from atop Alex Bowman’s pit box. Bowman replaced Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet and started the 500 from the pole.

Earnhardt expected to miss being behind the wheel for NASCAR’s signature event. But he quickly added that there are parts he won’t miss.

”The pressure of performance,” he said. ”You put a lot of pressure on yourself. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations from outside. That’s for every driver.”

Especially for Earnhardt, who recalled how much relief he felt when he first won the Daytona 500 in 2004. It took his father 20 attempts and numerous heartbreaking losses before finally winning the Daytona 500 in 1998.

”I watched Dad try and try and try and seen the disappointment and seen the suffering and experienced it with him as part of the family,” he said. ”We all went where he went emotionally. So many almost-close wins. It just built that importance up inside me as I watched him go through that quest. When I won it early in my career, I felt blessed and relieved that I got it out of the way. I don’t have to spend 20 years trying.”

Earnhardt repeated the feat in 2014.

”After about eight years, I was thinking, `You know, I don’t want to be greedy, but it sure would be good to feel that one more time,”’ he said. ”It goes with you the rest of your life. I’ll be taking pictures with Daytona 500 champions for the rest of my life or get together with that group.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt and Junior’s nephew, extended the family’s streak of Daytona 500 starts to 40 consecutive years. Jeffrey Earnhardt wore a tribute helmet to honor Dale Earnhardt and finished 21st.

”I know how much he wants to be racing and competing, and this is the biggest race of the year,” Junior said. ”I’m hoping for some good fortune for him this year that he can enjoy, and I know he wants to be in the sport, so I’m pulling for him to do that and accomplish that.”

More AP auto racing: http://www.racing.ap.org

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Wallace in 2nd: Best Daytona 500 finish for black driver

February 18, 2018 - 6:19pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Darrell Wallace Jr. let the weight of his milestone in the Daytona 500 hit him when he saw mom. He sobbed as Desiree Wallace stepped onto the dais and wrapped her arms around her son for a hug neither wanted to end.

”You did that thing, baby,” she said, sobbing. ”I’m so proud of you. I’ve waited so long, baby.”

Wallace’s runner-up finish to Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500 suddenly felt like a checkered flag.

”You’re acting like we just won the race,” he said, laughing.

”We did win that race, baby. I love you. I’m so proud of you,” Desiree Wallace said.

”Dangit, mom!” Wallace said.

His brief moment of levity gave way to an embrace with his sister Brittany, who as child coined the ”Bubba” nickname that has stuck to this day for Wallace.

Wallace bawled some more into a towel before he finally composed himself.

”Pull it together, bud. Pull it together,” he told himself. ”You just finished second. It’s awesome.”

Wallace carved a slice of NASCAR history Sunday night when he posted the best finish by a black driver in the Daytona 500. Wallace was the first black driver to start the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott in 1969. Scott was 13th in the 1966 race, the previous best finish for a black driver at Daytona.

Wallace, the son of a white father and black mother, was feted by sports royalty on his big day, and not just from his team owner, Richard Petty. Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron wished him luck on a phone call and four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton tweeted his support.

”I just try so hard to be successful in everything I do,” Wallace said. ”My family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it but I just want to make it proud.”

The 24-year-old Wallace was one of the stars of Speedweeks. He topped the speed chart at practice, qualified seventh and was a fixture on social media pushing his new show on the Facebook Watch show page. He had cameras trailing him from pit road to the media center to chronicle the feat.

He handled the pressure with ease – until he collapsed in tears in the presence of family.

More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org/

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Austin Dillon takes No. 3 back to victory lane at Daytona

February 18, 2018 - 5:21pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Austin Dillon put the No. 3 back in victory lane in the Daytona 500.

Dillon drove the iconic car number made famous by Dale Earnhardt to the win 17 years to the day the Hall of Famer was killed in an accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500. The win also comes during the 20th anniversary celebration of Earnhardt’s only victory in “The Great American Race.”

Dillon wasn’t a factor in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet until the final lap in overtime when he got a push from Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. that helped him get to leader Aric Almirola. Dillon spun Almirola then whizzed on by to give Childress, his grandfather, an iconic victory in that beloved No. 3.

“My grandfather has done everything for me and everybody knows it,” Dillon said. “There’s a lot of pressure on me to perform because I’ve had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure, the same with the No. 3, there’s a lot of pressure behind it, but I’m willing to take it and go with it.

As for the aggressive move that wrecked Almirola? Dillon was doing what has to be done to win at Daytona.

“We just had a run and I stayed on the gas. It’s what it is when you’re at Daytona,” he said. “It is so awesome to take the 3 car back to victory lane, 20 years ago. This one’s for Dale Earnhardt Senior and all those Senior fans. I love you guys. We’re going to keep kicking butt the rest of the year.”

Wallace, the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969, finished second in a 1-2 finish for Chevrolet and Childress’ engine program.

Denny Hamlin, the 2016 winner, finished third in a Toyota.

Ryan Blaney, who led a race-high 118 laps, faded to seventh after giving the win away in regulation. He wrecked Kurt Busch, the defending race winner, trying to reclaim his lead and the contact damaged Blaney’s Ford.

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The Latest: Dillon drives 3 back to victory in Daytona 500

February 18, 2018 - 4:47pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):

6:35 p.m.

Austin Dillon put the No. 3 back in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway. Dillon won in the car number made famous by Dale Earnhardt and won 17 years to the day that the Hall of the Fame driver was killed in a last-lap accident at NASCAR”s famed track.

Dillon also won in the 3 two decades after Earnhardt’s lone victory in the Daytona 500.

”It was so awesome to take the 3 car back to victory lane,” Dillon said. ”This is for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and all those Senior fans.”

Dillon even replicated the slide Earnhardt did in 1998 and did a burnout in the shape of a 3 in the infield grass.

Darrell Wallace Jr. finished second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Chris Buescher.

6:20 p.m.

”The Big One” happened late in the Daytona 500.

Ryan Blaney spun defending race winner Kurt Busch with two laps to go in regulation, settling off a 12-car melee that included several top contenders.

Pole-sitter Alex Bowman, defending series champion Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Darrell Wallace Jr., Brendan Gaughan, AJ Allmendinger, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Matt DiBenedetto also were caught up in the crash.

6:10 p.m.

William Byron spun for the second time in the Daytona 500, adding to Hendrick Motorsports’ woes.

Byron spun in Turn 4 with 10 to go in ”The Great American Race,” bringing out the caution flag and setting up a shootout for the final laps.

Two of Byron’s teammates, seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott, already were knocked out of the 500-mile race.

Byron had damage all around his No. 24 Chevrolet and was several laps down when the race restarted.

Ryan Blaney is leading, following by Martin Truex Jr.

5:06 p.m.

Ryan Blaney won the second stage of the season-opening Daytona 500.

Blaney led a single-file parade for the final few laps in the segment and took the checkered flag ahead of Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell and Darrell Wallace Jr.

The bigger story was all the contenders knocked out before the final stage.

Former series champions Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are out. So is Danica Patrick, whose NASCAR finale ended prematurely.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones also were knocked out in crashes.

It was an even worse showing for Hendrick Motorsports, which lost Johnson and Chase Elliott. Hendrick teammate and rookie William Byron also was involved in a crash.

4:45 p.m.

Danica Patrick, Chase Elliott and former Cup Series champions Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick have crashed in the Daytona 500.

Patrick, Elliott, Keselowski and Harvick are done for the day. For Patrick, it prematurely ends her NASCAR finale. The Daytona 500 was Patrick’s last stock-car race.

With 96 laps remaining, leader Ryan Blaney seemed to make a move to block Elliott on the backstretch. Elliott and Keselowski got together and started sliding across the track. Elliott hit the outside wall hard and started spinning into traffic.

Three other cars were involved, including the second accident for defending series champion Martin Truex Jr.

4 p.m.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson has been wrecked out of the Daytona 500.

Johnson was collected in a nine-car accident that involved half of Joe Gibbs Racing and half of Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson was wrecked along with Hendrick teammate William Byron, while Gibbs drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez were part of the scum.

The accident started when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to block Ryan Blaney as they raced to the end of the first stage. Contact between the two cars sent Stenhouse shooting up the track, but he was able to save his Ford and avoid crashing.

Drivers tried to avoid Stenhouse and it triggered the accident that ended Johnson’s day.

Johnson had a horrible Speedweeks. He had accidents in all three races at Daytona.

Kurt Busch won the first stage of the race under caution.

3:50 p.m.

Kyle Busch has brought out a caution after 50 laps of the Daytona 500.

Busch had a tire problem at the start of the race that put him one lap down. Roughly 20 laps after the tire problem, Busch spun and the back of his Toyota hit the Daytona International Speedway wall. Busch had to go to pit road for repairs.

It’s been a bad start to the race for Joe Gibbs Racing’s two stars. Busch had his issues, and Denny Hamlin missed his pit stall during his first stop and was penalized a lap.

But, while Busch was on pit road for his repairs, his older brother Kurt assumed the lead of the race. Kurt Busch is the defending Daytona 500 winner.

3 p.m.

Peyton Manning, with his hands firmly gripping the steering wheel at the ”10 and 2” positions, has led the one of the youngest Daytona 500 fields in history to the green flag.

Manning had just 20 minutes of practice on the high-banked Daytona International Speedway and seemed overwhelmed as he navigated the track. A NASCAR official in the passenger seat helped guide the wheel as Manning drove through the turn.

”I’ve been upright and on my back, but I’ve never been sideways,” Manning joked to the Fox Sports broadcasting booth.

He also noted that pole-sitter Alex Bowman was in position to pass Manning in the pace car. When Jeff Gordon asked Manning if he wanted to stay on the track for a few laps, Manning said he’d prefer to stay in his lane.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave a raucous command to start the engines, and Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip opened the race by saying ”Danica Sue, this is for you, Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!” Danica Patrick is retiring from NASCAR after the Daytona 500.

1 p.m.

NASCAR recognized Danica Patrick in the pre-race driver meeting in honor of her final Daytona 500.

Patrick is retiring from NASCAR after Sunday’s race, and from racing altogether after the Indianapolis 500 in May.

As NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell went through the list of honorees and dignitaries at the Daytona 500, he included Patrick. O’Donnell thanked her for her contributions to motorsports and asked her fellow drivers to applaud Patrick.

Patrick is the only woman to start the Daytona 500 from the pole, lead laps in the race and is the highest-finishing female driver in the 60 years of the race.

At the end of the driver meeting, she exited the tent alone, head high and focused. She kept a steely straight-ahead glare and showed no emotion.

1 p.m.

Peyton Manning walked the red carpet at the Daytona 500 after a brief practice as pace car driver for ”The Great American Race.”

Manning was trailed by his son, Marshall, and the two posed alongside the Harley J. Earl trophy. When asked how much time he had in the pace car, Manning said ”not much. About 20 minutes.”

Manning had the cap of a Sharpie pen in his mouth as he signed autographs while walking into the pre-race driver meeting. He also said he was rooting for pole-sitter Alex Bowman, who is sponsored by Manning-endorsed Nationwide.

Manning is the bigger of the NFL MVP’s at Sunday’s race. The five-time MVP quarterback was in an official capacity, while two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers is at the race as the boyfriend of Danica Patrick. Rodgers has yet to publicly comment on the new relationship or his time in Daytona. He arrived Wednesday and watched Patrick compete in a qualifying race from atop her pit box Thursday night.

12:45 p.m.

Chipper Jones is ready to take his cuts at Daytona.

Jones served as the honorary race official at ”The Great American Race.”

Jones is a big NASCAR fan and autographed some baseball bats for driver Chase Elliott. Jones was a long-time fan of Jeff Gordon and said he was still cheering for the No. 24 car. That ride now belongs to 20-year-old William Byron.

Jones said the Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s loved NASCAR.

Unlike some Daytona 500 celebrities who know little about NASCAR, Jones talked about the photo finish at the Xfinity Series race and his excitement at meeting the drivers.

Jones hit 468 career home runs and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last month in his first year of eligibility.

12:15 p.m.

Charlize Theron is cheering for Danica Patrick in her final NASCAR race.

Theron is the honorary starter for the Daytona 500 and will wave the green flag to start the race.

Theron said it was ”special” to attend Patrick’s finale. Patrick is the only female driver to win a pole and lead laps at the Daytona 500.

”As a woman, that just seems pretty incredible,” Theron said. ”For me to be able to witness her last race, that feels very special. The girl in me is secretly obviously cheering for her. I just love that even my kids were just impressed that girl was racing cars today, too.”

Theron also busted on ”Italian Job” co-star Mark Wahlberg for puking during driver training for the movie. She also laughed as she recalled a trip to Daytona as a teen where she got drunk and then went skydiving.

11:40 a.m.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an official role in his first Daytona 500 as a retired race-car driver.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner is the grand marshal for Sunday’s season-opening race, and once his duties are complete, Earnhardt plans to watch ”The Great American Race” from atop the pit box of pole-sitter Alex Bowman. Bowman replaced Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet following Earnhardt’s retirement at the end of last season.

The one thing Earnhardt doesn’t plan on doing is offering any advice to Bowman. He said it’s way too late in the preparation process for Earnhardt to offer any wisdom.

Earnhardt, meanwhile, chose a T-shirt depicting his late father at the 1987 Daytona 500 for his grand marshal duties.

11:30 a.m.

Four-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will be rooting for Bubba Wallace in the Daytona 500.

Wallace is the first black driver since 1969 to start the Daytona 500.

Hamilton followed Wallace on Twitter hours before Sunday’s race and then sent a message to the driver on the social-media site.

”Wishing you the absolute best today in your race. Smash it!!” Hamilton posted.

Hamilton is mixed race and the first and only black driver to race in Formula One.

More AP auto racing: http://www.racing.ap.org

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Danica done: Patrick wrecks in final race of NASCAR career

February 18, 2018 - 4:27pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Danica Patrick and Aaron Rodgers brought a dose of A-list attraction to a pit road scene that was more fitting for a red carpet. The starry-eyed sweethearts were mobbed by fans and media clicking away for a snapshot of some PDA that would surely spawn headlines. Then the moment came: Rodgers, a full foot taller than his new girlfriend, put his hands on Patrick’s shoulders and leaned in for a good-luck kiss.

Patrick’s final NASCAR race at the Daytona 500 captured her career to perfection. She had photojournalists embedded with her, a hunky celebrity NFL QB boyfriend by her side, social media buzzing – and a crumpled Chevy towed to the garage that put a premature end to her race.

Patrick smooched her boyfriend and then kissed her NASCAR career goodbye when she was caught up in a wreck in Sunday’s race.

Her final win-loss record was a dud: 0 for 191 in the Cup series.

”I hope they remember me as a great driver and that I was a woman and it was really cool to watch and be there for,” Patrick said.

Her NASCAR farewell fittingly came on the sport’s biggest stage – in front of 101,000 fans at Daytona.

Patrick was in good spirits as she approached her car that had been swallowed by mobs of onlookers and security guards barking orders that made it futile to find a spot near the scrum. She posed for pictures with her family and Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, who was all smiles in a tight blue T-shirt and jeans before the race and watched from the pits.

”Who’s that girl with Aaron Rodgers?!” one fan cracked.

Funny, but all eyes at Daytona were on Danica.

She finished 35th on Sunday in the first leg of the ballyhooed ”Danica Double” at Daytona International Speedway. She’ll make a return in May to IndyCar and race the Indianapolis 500 before Patrick calls it quits on her racing career.

”When she first started at 10, I knew about two months into it, I told my wife she’s going to change racing. I could see it,” said Patrick’s father, T.J.

Patrick was a driver at peace with her decision and ready to transition into the next chapter of her life.

She tweeted , ”Ready to go!!!!!!” with a green heart emoji hours before the race. On Instagram , it was a photo of her eyes peering through her race helmet with the caption, ”Going to have to keep my eyes wide open today in the race. These cars and guys are going to do crazy things.”

Sure enough, Patrick was collected in a multi-car accident.

”I’m just sad that it ended that way,” she said.

Patrick has moved on from both NASCAR and longtime boyfriend and fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Patrick and Stenhouse, once NASCAR’s it couple, used to sit next to each other at the pre-race meeting. This week, the exes were kept separated on media availability schedules.

Patrick posted a photo on Instagram on Saturday of her and Rodgers with her family at the beach. She wrote ”Doing Daytona with all the people that mean the most to me.” The fitness fanatic and author of a workout book also posted a pic of rows of Krispy Kreme doughnuts with the caption, ”pre Daytona 500 prep.”

Her role as a female trailblazer will serve as her true lasting impact in racing.

”I want a storybook. I love to fulfill the storybook,” Patrick said. ”We didn’t get to do that in the end, today. Hopefully, the whole career will stand for itself a little bit more than just the way it ended at Daytona.”

Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron , the honorary starter for the Daytona 500, said she was cheering for Patrick . The 35-year-old Patrick is the only woman to start the Daytona 500 from the pole, lead laps in the race and is the highest-finishing female in the 60 years of the race.

”As a woman, that just seems pretty incredible,” Theron said Sunday. ”For me to be able to witness her last race, that feels very special. The girl in me is secretly obviously cheering for her. I just love that even my kids were just really impressed that a girl was racing cars today, too. I think that’s such a good thing and we need more of that. Hopefully, we’ll have more of that enter this culture.”

NASCAR recognized Patrick in the pre-race meeting in honor of her accomplishments in motorsports.

Patrick never had a top-five finish for Stewart-Hass Racing. She never won another pole after her breakthrough at the 2013 Daytona 500. She never had much success but carried the flag as one of NASCAR’s only true mainstream stars. But as results sank, so did interest in funding her ride. Sponsors bailed, cash dried up and she was out of a job.

The former GoDaddy girl took a final ride in a bright-green No. 7 Chevrolet, fielded by Premium Motorsports.

Patrick is as much a brand these days as she is an athlete. Her love life, Super Bowl ads and racy photo shoots all generated more press than her actual career accomplishments. She launched the clothing line ”Warrior by Danica Patrick” after participating in the design process. She developed the workouts and meal plans for her book. Patrick is still a bankable celebrity and should have her pick of any future projects.

She accidentally revealed this week she’ll drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in her final Indy 500.

Then she rides off for good.

At Daytona, dad had some final words of advice.

”I tell her every week go out there, I love you, have fun,” T.J. Patrick said. ”Once it stops being fun, then you need to get out. I think that’s what it got to be.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org

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