NASCAR Chairman Brian France will keep the new points system in place for next year, satisfied that the closest championship race in history is proof that the 10-race playoff structure works better than expected.
Five drivers head into Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway separated by 82 points, creating a one-race shootout to determine the Nextel Cup champion.
“The new points system has been wonderful, it’s created interest and a scenario that was unthinkable under the old system,” France told Associated Press. “Obviously, we were hoping to create drama all the way down to the last lap of the last race. That was our preference under the old system, and it just wasn’t happening....We may end up making some slight adjustments next season, but nothing very noticeable.”
That’s because the last time a points race was this close heading into the final event was 1992, when six drivers were separated by 113 points. Davey Allison went into the finale with a 30-point lead over Alan Kulwicki, and Kulwicki passed him and won the title in the last race.
The biggest complaint about the new system had been the theory that one bad finish would ruin a driver’s title hopes.
France said Jimmie Johnson has proved that wrong.
After dropping to ninth in the standings with six races left, Johnson has used four victories to pull into second place, 18 points behind leader Kurt Busch.
Tim Woods III of Chino Hills was dropped from fifth place to 13th in the NASCAR Grand National Division 150-lap race Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway after NASCAR announced that a postrace 45-second penalty had been imposed on Woods’ No. 54 Ford for “failure to reduce his speed during a caution period.”
Woods collected $6,500. Fifth place paid $14,000.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov told London’s Independent newspaper that he is giving up tennis to become a professional poker player.
The 30-year-old Russian hasn’t played since losing in the second round of the St. Petersburg Open in Oct. 2003. He said it was impossible to compete with players 10 years younger. Kafelnikov won the 1996 French Open, the 1999 Australian Open, a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics, the 2002 Davis Cup and 26 ATP titles. He held the top ranking during the 1999 season.
Top-ranked Roger Federer returned to action after sitting out three weeks because of a torn thigh muscle and defeated Gaston Gaudio, 6-1, 7-6 (4), in the first round of the ATP Masters Cup championships at Houston.
South Africa will play in the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup as one of two guest teams. South Africa, which will play host to soccer’s World Cup in 2010, joins Canada, Mexico, the United States, three qualifying teams from the Caribbean and four from Central America in the regional tournament. The seven qualifying teams will be determined by February, and the second team to be asked to play in the July 6-24 tournament in the United States will be announced at a later date.
The World Anti-Doping Agency could wind up looking into out-of-competition cases of athletes caught using cocaine and other recreational drugs, its president, Dick Pound, said.
Earlier this month, Romanian soccer player Adrian Mutu of Chelsea was barred from playing anywhere in the world after drawing a seven-month English ban for doping. But because Mutu tested positive for cocaine at a practice site in September, WADA didn’t have any jurisdiction.
Pound said WADA was going “to press forward” with trying to get Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and NHL to adopt the WADA code.
The five cities competing to play host to the 2012 Olympics -- London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris -- submitted bids to the International Olympic Committee, starting the final stage of a long process. The IOC members will vote in Singapore on July 6.
The WNBA lottery to determine the top three picks in the 2005 draft will be held Dec. 1. The teams in the lottery are San Antonio, Houston, Indiana, Charlotte and Phoenix.