National Sports Digest: Johnson wins in Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. ó When a fluke accident cost Jimmie Johnson a huge chunk of his points lead, he knew there was no more room for error in his bid to win a NASCAR record fourth consecutive championship.
But when it came time to plot a strategy for Phoenix International Raceway, playing it safe was never an option.
Johnson cruised to a dominating victory Sunday that moved him to the edge of history, winning the fourth race of this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in what his rivals considered a “statement” showing.
“I guess in the end it could be looked at like that,” Johnson acknowledged. “It was, ‘Hey, guys, you know, we need to step up and get it done … we need to show what we’re made of, we need to get this done.’
“I guess in the end, it could have been a statement that we’re sending. I’m very proud of the fact we looked each other in the eyes, knew what we had to do, and delivered.”
His win at Phoenix ó Johnson’s fourth in the last five races here, and seventh victory of the season ó stretched his lead to 108 points over Martin heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson needs to finish 25th or better next week to grab a spot in NASCAR’s record books.
Martin has gained 108 points on Johnson nine times in 265 races, including last weekend at Texas. He did it once at Homestead, in 2005.
Jeff Burton finished second and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Martin and pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr.
Kurt Busch, winner last week at Texas, finished sixth. Clint Bowyer was seventh and followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Gordon, and David Reutimann.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. ó Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points, and rookie Rodrique Beaubois added 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting to help the Dallas Mavericks beat Detroit 95-90 on Sunday night, snapping the Pistons’ winning streak at three games.
Clippers 101, Thunder 93
OKLAHOMA CITY ó Baron Davis scored 24 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute, to help Los Angeles snap a three-game losing streak.
RALEIGH ó Jussi Jokinen and Michael Leighton helped Carolina end its winless streak at 14 games, leading the Hurricanes to a 5-4 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.
The Hurricanes’ second shooter in the tiebreaker, Jokinen went to his backhand and lofted the puck over Niklas Backstrom’s glove. Leighton then stopped Marek Zidlicky on the Wild’s final chance to give the Hurricanes their first win since Oct. 9.
Leighton made 28 saves in regulation and overtime, and Ray Whitney, Jokinen, Joe Corvo and Brandon Sutter scored in regulation for Carolina.
Blackhawks 4, Sharks 3, OT
CHICAGO ó Brent Seabrook scored 41 seconds into overtime, lifting Chicago past NHL-leading San Jose for its seventh consecutive home victory.
Thrashers 3, Oilers 2
ATLANTA ó Slava Kozlov scored his first goal of the season and Atlanta beat Edmonton to improve to 10-6-1 with its fourth straight victory.
MELBOURNE, Australia ó Tiger Woods gave the record crowds at the Australian Masters everything they could have wanted with his victory Sunday, except a definitive answer when he would return.
“I promise it won’t be as long,” Woods said to yet another warm ovation.
Woods took the lead for good with a 7-iron to within four feet for birdie on the fifth hole, and he hardly missed a shot the rest of the way for a 4-under 68 and a two-shot win over Australia’s Greg Chalmers.
He won for the seventh time this year, and the 82nd time worldwide in his career. Woods now has a trophy from every continent where golf is played. Australia, the 13th country where he has won an individual event, had been the missing link.
NEW YORK ó TCU’s big victory wasn’t enough for the Horned Frogs to make a move up the BCS standings.TCU (10-0) on Sunday remained behind Florida, Alabama and Texas in the race to the national title game.
The Horned Frogs defeated Utah 55-28 on Saturday night. But they remained stuck in fourth place in BCS standings.
– SOUTH BEND, Ind. ó Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is getting tired of answering big picture questions.
He didn’t want to answer them Saturday night after the Irish fell 27-22 to No. 8 Pittsburgh, and he didn’t want to answer them Sunday. He canceled his weekly news conference Sunday because the team got home later than planned.
Weis said the most important thing for him now is to get the Irish ready for Connecticut (4-5) and then No. 14 Stanford (7-3). Weis has the same winning percentage as his two predecessors, Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham.