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NASCAR ratings please networks

Associated Press
The Fox network guys finally begin their break from NASCAR last weekend, after posting some solid ratings for the first half of the Sprint Cup season.
They handed off to the TimeWarner-TNT crew for the summer stretch, beginning with Sunday’s Pocono 500.
Fox, ESPN and Speed, carrying the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck series, respectively, are all reporting a jump in TV ratings this season.
Billy Wanger, the head of research and programming for FOX Sports, pointed proudly to NASCAR’s TV gains in big markets.
“We’ve seen some really hefty gains in some major markets this year, in the Rust Belt, the Midwest, the West Coast, and the East,” he said. “First, Pittsburgh. Up quite a bit, 35 percent. Chicago was up substantially, 32 percent. Washington, D.C., was up quite a bit, 20 percent. Los Angeles, up 37 percent. And Denver, up 23 percent.
“The sport in general is definitely coming back, after a couple of years of decline. It started when Brian France, just before Daytona, said ‘We’re going to get back to our roots and our core fans.’ ”
COLLEGE HOOPS
PITTSBURGH ó Morakinyo Williams, a 6-foot-11 center who was one of Kentucky’s top recruits a year ago, is transferring to Duquesne.
Williams, who played sparingly at Kentucky last season and wanted a chance to play more minutes and make a bigger impact, signed his scholarship papers Monday and faxed them to Duquesne. He also considered Tulane and Penn after deciding recently to leave Kentucky.
– PROVIDENCE, R.I. ó Brown University didn’t look far for its new men’s basketball coach.
The Ivy League school announced Monday that it has selected assistant coach Jesse Agel to replace Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of Barack Obama who left after two seasons to take the head coaching job at Oregon State.
NHL
RALEIGH ó The Carolina Hurricanes are shaking up Peter Laviolette’s coaching staff.
The Hurricanes announced Monday that one of Laviolette’s assistants and the coach of their top minor-league affiliate are switching jobs.
Tom Rowe is leaving Albany to become an assistant with Carolina, and Jeff Daniels is leaving the NHL club to take over as coach and general manager of the River Rats. The team also hired former player Robert Kron as a European scout.
Carolina GM Jim Rutherford said the switch gives Daniels a chance to run his own team while the addition of Rowe infuses the Hurricanes’ coaching staff with fresh ideas.
TRACK
NEW YORK ó Banned sprinter Justin Gatlin filed a lawsuit Monday in a last-ditch effort to compete at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in less than three weeks.
The complaint alleges that penalizing Gatlin for a 2001 doping violation, which involved medication he was taking for attention deficit disorder, violates the Americans with Disability Act.
SOCCER
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ó The United States is heading into World Cup qualifying this weekend riding its longest scoring drought since the end of the 1998 and the start of the 1999 season.
Heading into Sunday’s game against Barbados in Carson, Calif., the United States has been blanked in three straight games with its last goal coming from Eddie Lewis in the 73rd minute of a 3-0 win over Poland on March 28.
GOLF
ATLANTA ó Atlanta’s TPC Sugarloaf is losing the AT&T Classic but apparently will be home to a new Champions Tour event.
The PGA Tour announced Monday the AT&T Classic will not return to Atlanta in 2009.
The tournament, formerly known as the BellSouth Classic, lost AT&T as its title sponsor in December.
The tournament celebrated its 40th anniversary with Ryuji Imada winning the final AT&T Classic. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the lack of a title sponsor “necessitated the move in order to solidify the schedule for the future.”

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