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National Sports Briefs: Allmendinger joins Petty team

Associated Press
MOORESVILLE ó A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 44 Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports in the season-opening Budweiser Shootout and at least the first eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season.
The team, formed from the merger of Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, wants to put together a sponsorship package that would guarantee the 27-year-old Allmendinger’s participation in the rest of the 2009 races and the 2010 season.
“This is pretty awesome news for me,” said Allmendinger, who also will compete in the July Cup race at Daytona. “I just want to get behind the wheel of a race car and race.”
This will be Allmendinger’s third NASCAR season. He was part of the GEM team for the last five races of 2008.
EVERNHAM
MOORESVILLE ó Ray Evernham, who won fame as a championship crew chief with Jeff Gordon, is ready to take on some new challenges.
Evernham officially relinquished his leadership role at Richard Petty Motorsports on Wednesday. He will keep a minority ownership with the team and do some consulting.
“I’m not retiring from racing or putting NASCAR on a back burner,” he said in a release. “I’m committed to the growth and success of the sport overall, and to building championship teams and organizations in many different levels of racing in the future.”
Among his new projects, Evernham will work with NHRA star Doug Herbert, helping design and build a land speed car to break the 500 mph land speed record for a piston-driven car.
NHL
DETROIT ó Looking to keep one of hockey’s top teams on steady footing, the Detroit Red Wings knew exactly where to start.
The Stanley Cup champions announced Wednesday that they signed Henrik Zetterberg to the longest contract in team history, a 12-year, $73 million deal that could keep the star forward in Hockeytown until 2021.
Penguins 6, Rangers 2
PITTSBURGH ó Petr Sykora and Kris Letang each had two goals, and Sidney Crosby got back into action with a goal and two assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Jordan Staal added a goal and an assist for the Penguins.
Nikolai Zherdev and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers, 5-2-1 in their past eight games.
Flames 5, Sabres 2
CALGARY, Alberta ó Michael Cammalleri stayed hot through the All-Star break and scored three more goals to lift Calgary over Buffalo.
HALL OF FAME
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó Arnold Palmer, Jerry West and Sam Huff are leading the inaugural class of 10 athletes picked for the Southern Conference’s new Hall of Fame.
The group announced Wednesday will be inducted May 4 in Spartanburg, home of the league’s headquarters.
Palmer, golf’s “King” and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, played at Wake Forest. He was the NCAA stroke play medalist in 1949 and 1950.
West played at West Virginia from 1956 to 1960. He was a three-time all-American and twice named the Southern Conference’s male athlete of the year.
Huff played football for the Mountaineers from 1952 to 1955.
BASEBALL
PHOENIX ó Free agent right-hander Jon Garland and the Arizona Diamondbacks have reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year contract that includes a club option for 2010, a deal that would guarantee the pitcher about $7 million.
– SEATTLE ó The Mariners have traded recently acquired reliever Aaron Heilman to the Chicago Cubs in for infielder Ronny Cedeno and left-hander Garrett Olson.

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