NASCAR postpones Daytona 500 to noon Monday

Posted Feb. 26, 2012, at 7:21 p.m.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR postponed the Daytona 500 because of rain, the first time in the 54-year history of the event that it has been delayed a day.

Heavy rain soaked Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, and NASCAR never had a big enough window to dry the track.

Rain saturated the famed speedway, sending fans scattering for cover and leaving everyone in wait-and-see mode. Puddles of water formed in parts of the infield, and many fans got drenched as they tried to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

The 500-mile race was rescheduled for noon Monday. It will be aired on Fox.

Carl Edwards, runner-up to Tony Stewart in last year’s championship race, will start from the pole. Former IndyCar star Danica Patrick will make her Daytona 500 debut.

The last shortened Daytona 500 was Matt Kenseth’s 2009 victory, when rain stopped the event 48 laps from the finish. He was declared the winner while the cars were parked on pit road.

The 2010 race had more than two hours in delays as NASCAR twice stopped the event to fix a pesky pothole in the surface. Jamie McMurray held off Earnhardt Jr. to win that race.

Zimmerman, Nationals add $100M, 6 years

Ever since he became the Washington Nationals’ very first draft pick, Ryan Zimmerman wanted to stay with the club for the long haul.

Now he’ll get that wish.

The Nationals took what they hope is another step toward consistent contention by locking up their third baseman — and the guy many still call the face of the franchise — through 2019, adding six years to Zimmerman’s existing contract in a deal announced Sunday.

The deal includes a full no-trade clause.

The extra six seasons are worth $100 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no financial terms were revealed publicly.

“It’s nice that it’s done,” Zimmerman said at a news conference at the club’s spring training stadium in Viera, Fla. “It’s where I want to be. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be.”

He already was signed for 2012 and 2013, with $26 million remaining on the five-year, $45 million contract he got at the start of the 2009 season. He’s now guaranteed $126 million over the next eight seasons, and there is a club option for 2020.

Twins’ Zumaya to miss another year with elbow tear

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The fireballer has flamed out once again, and this time it may be for good.

Minnnesota Twins reliever Joel Zumaya was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right elbow on Sunday, meaning his latest comeback bid has ended almost before it began.

Zumaya had signed an incentive-laden, one-year deal with the Twins, who hoped he could bolster their bullpen with his 100 mph heat. General manager Terry Ryan knew Zumaya’s long injury history when he offered the contract, but the possibility of getting the overpowering arm that electrified the Tigers in 2006 intrigued him.

“I took a risk. It was a high risk with high reward,” Ryan said after the MRI exam revealed the torn ulnar collateral ligament. “Unfortunately it didn’t work. And he feels bad. I feel bad.”

Zumaya lasted just 13 pitches in his first session of live batting practice Saturday before walking off the mound with pain in his elbow. Ryan spoke with him on Sunday after they received the news, but said it was too early to talk about Zumaya’s plans for the future.

Lindsey Vonn wins World Cup super-G in Bulgaria

BANSKO, Bulgaria — On a rough and demanding course, Lindsey Vonn showed that no woman rules this event quite like her.

She captured a World Cup super-G Sunday to become the career leader in the discipline. By winning her 18th super G the American overtook Austria’s Renate Goetschl for the record.

“The course was difficult, pretty bumpy at some points and very challenging,” Vonn said.

Vonn, who also won the super-G race in Bansko three years ago, has 10 World Cup victories this season and 51 for her career.

She was timed on the Marc Girardelli course in 1 minute, 15.66 seconds. Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was 0.05 seconds behind and Daniela Merighetti of Italy was third, 0.07 seconds back. Julia Mancuso of the U.S. was eighth.

Vonn was down 0.6 seconds at the first split and struggled for control in the middle section. She made up the deficit, however, on the final section.

“I made a mistake in the middle of the course, but in the final part I raised the speed and managed to catch up,” she said.

Vonn held a 20-point lead over Anna Fenninger entering this final super-G of the regular season. After the Austrian finished 10th, Vonn stretched her advantage to 94 points going into the World Cup finals. Vonn’s overall lead is a massive 528-point margin with nine races left.

Indians closer Perez out 4 to 6 weeks

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Chris Perez couldn’t even finish his first bullpen session without trouble.

Now he has to save opening day.

Cleveland’s All-Star closer will miss at least one month and possibly six weeks with a strained left side muscle he injured throwing off the mound for the first time in spring training. Perez said Sunday he had thrown about 30 pitches Thursday when he pulled up with what he thought was a cramp.

Instead, he strained an oblique muscle.

“Just one of those fluke things,” he said.

It’s the second significant medical setback in camp already for the Indians, who were ravaged by injuries last season. On Friday, the club announced that center fielder Grady Sizemore will not be ready for opening day because of a strained lower back.

Trainer Lonnie Soloff said there’s still a chance Perez will be ready for opening day on April 5, depending on how he does with treatments.

Asked if Perez would miss the opener against Toronto, Soloff said, “I wouldn’t say that.”

Calhoun could return from back surgery this season

STORRS, Conn. — Connecticut Jim Calhoun is set to have back surgery Monday to help alleviate pain caused by narrowing of his spinal column, a procedure that he hopes could lead to his return to the court this season.

Connecticut has not provided details about the surgery, but Calhoun said it is being performed after conventional therapy to treat his spinal stenosis failed. The Hall-of-Fame head coach is expected to be hospitalized for two nights.

Dr. John Knightly, who is the medical director of the Spine Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., said that time frame means it is likely Calhoun will undergo what is called a laminectomy, which involves removing some of the bone in the spinal column to create more space and relieve pressure on the nerve roots. He is not treating Calhoun.

“They open the skin up and either on one side or both sides remove the back portion of the canal so there is more room for the nerve to come out,” said Knightly.. “The analogy I use with my patients is that it is like a covered bridge you have an 18-wheeler and you come across this covered bridge and you need to get to the other side. So, you take out your chain saw and cut off the top of the bridge and you drive the truck through.”

Knightly said doctors could also opt for an even less invasive procedure that involves putting a tube in the canal to “core out the arthritis and leave all the rest of the bone alone.”

Calhoun, who has missed seven games so far during his medical leave, will not coach Tuesday at Providence, and the school said he will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

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