Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2002

Rangers' Lindros suspended for high-sticking

PITTSBURGH -- New York Rangers center Eric Lindros was suspended for one game by the NHL for high-sticking Montreal Canadiens defenseman Stephane Quintal.

Lindros sat out Saturday night's game at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Under terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, he also forfeited a game's pay -- $13,333.33 -- that will be donated to the players' emergency fund.

With less than five minutes left in Friday night's game against the Canadiens, Lindros hit Quintal in the head with a one-handed swing of his stick during a scramble in front of Montreal's net. Montreal won 4-1.

Wizards sign Oakley to one-year contract

WASHINGTON -- Veteran forward Charles Oakley signed a one-year contract with the Washington Wizards on Saturday, reuniting him with former teammates Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.

Oakley, entering his 18th NBA season, ''gives us a tough veteran presence in the front court,'' general manager Wes Unseld said. ''He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help our young big men.''

The 38-year-old Oakley has averaged 10 points and 9.8 rebounds over his career.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but the team could not offer more than the $1 million veteran's minimum under the salary cap. Oakley's agent, Charles Grantham, has said that several teams were interest in his client, but none was offering more than that salary.

OneWorld vs. Oracle called off again

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- An America's Cup race between U.S. syndicates OneWorld and Oracle was postponed again Sunday because of strong wind on Hauraki Gulf.

The teams supported by rival technology billionaires Larry Ellison and Paul Allen were to have met on the sixth day of challenger racing -- four days earlier -- but the race was postponed that time because of light wind.

The race between the American yachts was rescheduled again, this time for Monday, the last reserve day of the first round.

The start of Sunday's race was delayed when wind gusted above 25 knots and averaged about 23, creating choppy conditions. The wind picked up and racing was abandoned less than two hours later.

Racing cannot begin in wind averaging less than 7 knots or more than 19 for five minutes before the scheduled start.

The final full round of matches in the challenger series for the Louis Vuitton Cup was held Saturday, leaving five deferred matches to be sailed Sunday and Monday.

Other matches scheduled for Sunday were: France's Le Defi vs. New York's Stars & Stripes and Britain's GBR Challenge vs. Italy's Mascalzone Latino.

Stewart appears to be NASCAR favorite

CONCORD, N.C. -- Tony Stewart is the man to beat over the last six races in the Winston Cup season. Maybe.

Stewart took the lead in the close title chase last week, moving 72 points ahead of Mark Martin going into Sunday's UAW-GM 500. But no one has emerged as a dominant force.

Matt Kenseth, Martin's Roush Racing teammate, is tied with four-time champion Jeff Gordon for sixth place, 201 points behind. That's still in the chase, mathematically.

''It's been such a weird year because everybody's had so many problems,'' Kenseth said Saturday. ''There really haven't been many cars run consistently good all year.''

The proof is Stewart, in the lead despite starting the season with a last-place finish in the Daytona 500 and failing to finish five other races.

Now he is considered the favorite, mostly because the series closes out the season at six tracks on which Stewart has had considerable success.

The fourth-year Winston Cup star also has been a champion before, although not in stock cars. He has won the Indy Racing League title, four U.S. Auto Club championships, as well as the World Karting Association National title and an International Karting Grand National championship.

''Being the favorite doesn't mean a thing to me, to be honest,'' Stewart said. ''We've gained some momentum, but I think there are still a couple of teams out there that have found a little bit more at these tracks than we have.''

Stewart said his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac has a handicap, too.

''We're still racing a 6-year-old car that we're trying to get caught up with everybody else,'' he said.

The Fords apparently have no such problem -- at least at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- and nobody would be surprised if a Roush Taurus wins Sunday on the 1 1/2-mile oval.

Martin, who won the Coca-Cola 600 in May, is expected to be strong again, while teammates Kenseth, who finished second, Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch are also among the favorites.

Roush cars have won at least one race at the suburban Charlotte track each year since 1998. That includes two victories by Martin, two by Burton, and one by Kenseth.

''We've got good depth and great strength among our drivers,'' team owner Jack Roush said. ''Mark has been a cornerstone to everything we've been able to do, but Jeff Burton has had his peaks and he's on his way back up again now. Matt is still on the rise. ... and Kurt Busch is coming on like gangbusters, so we're really feeling good about the mile-and-a-half tracks, wherever they are.''

Chevrolet's best chance at the championship is rookie Jimmie Johnson, who led the points for a week before Stewart took over. Johnson is having perhaps the greatest first year ever in NASCAR's top stock car series -- with three victories, 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 30 races -- and is just 82 points behind Stewart.

''We're just as amazed and shocked as everyone else, but we have an opportunity of a lifetime and we'll just see what happens,'' Johnson said.

Teammates and Ford drivers Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the closest championship race in NASCAR history.

Newman, another precocious rookie, has been almost as good as Johnson, with one win and a series-high 19 top-10 finishes. He's just 137 points behind Stewart.

Wallace, the 1989 series champion, is still within sight of the lead, 147 points behind, despite being penalized 25 points last week by NASCAR for using an unapproved spoiler on his Penske Racing South Ford in Talladega.

''I believe that a lot can change in one race. It's my opinion that not every one of those teams in the hunt will go through the next six races without having problems,'' said Burton, who's back in 14th place.

''The team that can be the most consistent and knock off top-six or top-seven finishes -- I think that's the team that's gonna win it. ... If somebody makes a mistake or has an engine problem from here on out, it would eliminate them.''

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