The rain was kind to Denny Hamlin at Darlington. Hamlin became the winner of NASCAR's first Wednesday race in 36 years when rain stopped the event with 20 laps remaining.
The Daytona 500 winner was out front but out of fresh tires and trying to hang on when he got unintended help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The reigning Cup champion caused Chase Elliott to crash eight laps earlier to bring out the caution. A furious Elliott waited for Busch on the apron of the track and flipped Busch the middle finger as he passed. Busch later admitted he made a mistake and misjudged the gap between cars. He finished second, followed by Sunday's winner Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones. Wednesday's race was delayed 90 minutes by rain after Tuesday's Xfinity race was washed out. Hamlin has won three times at Darlington and has two wins this season.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says his state is working on guidelines to allow sporting events and exhibitions to get back to "some semblance of normalcy." Wolf said he's been in touch with major professional organizations including NASCAR, the NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and others to figure out how they can resume competition in the state. He said he expected his administration will decide in the coming days on guidelines for various venues, sports and activities going forward. NASCAR's first Cup race outside the south is slated for Pocono Raceway.
In other virus-related sports news:
The Oakland Athletics say they can't pay their landlord. The head of the agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum says the A's have informed him they had "no ability to pay" the annual $1.2 million rent on the facility. Henry Gardner tells the Bay Area News Group that the A's say they've been unable to generate revenue because they haven't used the Coliseum this season. Gardner says the Coliseum is willing to negotiate and waive some items in the Athletics lease, but, "we can't just say no rent." Gardner is the interim executive director of the Coliseum authority. The A's have made the payment annually for use of the city- and county-owned baseball stadium. The team could face penalties for failure to pay. The A's released a statement Wednesday noting the authority hadn't been able to make the Coliseum available to the team because of the local shelter-in-place directive as well as state and local bans on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people at city facilities.
The NFL is working on a helmet face guard that might provide the same protection as a surgical mask. Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay says the issue came up about a month ago during a conference call with the league's competition committee. Many players already wear visors to protect their eyes. McKay says the new mask would cover even more of the face. The medical director of the NFL Players Association tells ESPN's Adam Schefter that league engineers and sports equipment company Oakley are already testing prototypes of the modified mask.
As the NBA continues to work through multiple return-to-play scenarios, two people with knowledge of the situation say Orlando, Las Vegas and Houston remain under consideration as cities that could host regular-season and playoff games. Wednesday marked the end of the 10th week since the NBA shut down on March 11. The pandemic halted a season that had 259 games left to play, but none of those games have been officially canceled yet.
The Kentucky-Michigan college basketball matchup scheduled for Dec. 6 in London has been postponed until 2022. And the three-game series has been restructured. The schools were scheduled to highlight the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase doubleheader at the O2 Arena which also included Marist against UMBC. Michigan will now host the Wildcats on Dec. 4 in Ann Arbor before the schools meet in London one year later.
The NCAA Division I Council has voted to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1. The decision comes as a growing number of college leaders express confidence that fall sports will be played in some form. Notre Dame and LSU are among a number of schools that have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester. A decision on other sports was pending.
The Italian soccer federation has given the country's top three leagues until Aug. 20 to complete their seasons. The federation has also come up with alternative plans if the leagues have to be halted again because of the pandemic. They could resort to playoffs or decide positions by applying coeffecients. The following season is now scheduled to start on Sept. 1. Serie A has been suspended since March 9. There are 12 rounds remaining in the league and the Italian Cup is in the semifinal stage.
Watford defender Adrian Mariappa says he is one of the six people to test positive from the first round of coronavirus checks in the Premier League and is surprised that he contracted the disease. Mariappa says he has been "scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus" because he hasn't "really left the house apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids." Two members of Watford's staff also tested positive for COVID-19. Burnley said assistant manager Ian Woan also has contracted the virus.
The head of the organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup says a global recession caused by the pandemic could affect the ability of fans to afford to travel to Qatar. The World Bank is forecasting a deep recession caused by the shutdown of economic activity around the world. Organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi says he is hopeful the tournament will be an opportunity for the world to come together again in November 2022. But he says there are "concerns about the global economy and the ability of fans to be able to afford traveling and afford coming and participating and celebrating the World Cup."
Aldon Smith is getting another chance to resume his once-promising NFL career. The NFL has conditionally reinstated Smith from an indefinite suspension for off-field issues, allowing the pass rusher to take part in team activities with the Dallas Cowboys. Smith will be able to participate in the Cowboys' virtual offseason program starting next week and can meet with teammates and coaches. He hasn't appeared in an NFL game since 2015 and was signed to a one-year contract last month despite his uncertain playing status. Smith was drafted seventh overall by San Francisco in 2011 and had 14 sacks as a rookie. He was an All-Pro in 2012 when he had 19 1/2 sacks and the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. Smith had several legal issues as a player with the Niners and Raiders.
Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kevin Kramer will miss four to six months while recovering from surgery on his right hip. The team announced Wednesday that Kramer underwent the procedure last week. The 26-year-old Kramer had been dealing with what the club called "chronic symptoms" while attempting to stay ready for the potential start to the 2020 season.
The Buffalo Sabres are suing to obtain a green card for their British-born strength and conditioning coach. The Sabres say federal immigration officials wrongly denied a petition by the team to secure the card for Ed Gannon. The team maintains U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services misstated facts and arbitrarily failed to follow its own rules in denying permanent residency status to Gannon. Gannon was hired by the Sabres in 2015 while the team was beefing up its player development staff. The Sabres filed the application for permanent residency on Gannon's behalf in October. To be granted a green card, Gannon had to demonstrate that he was at the top of his field. The Sabres argued that he proved his abilities under USCIS' criteria.
Stephen F. Austin has received postseason bans and agreed to several sanctions including probation, scholarship reductions and the forfeiture of wins for having low scores on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. The sanctions will bar the football, men's basketball and baseball teams from postseason tournaments for one year. The three teams were on a nationwide list released Tuesday that faced bans for posting a four-year score below 930. The men's basketball team had the lowest score of any team in Division I at 810. The SFA football program was one of six other Division I teams nationwide that fell below 900, at 894.
The body of former World Wrestling Entertainment pro Shad Gaspard was found early Wednesday on Los Angeles' Venice Beach, where he was caught in a rip current last weekend. A Police Department statement says patrol officers were flagged down around by a person reporting that a body had washed ashore. The department says the body was identified and next-of-kin notified. Gaspard was last seen about 50 yards offshore after he was caught in a rip current. Gaspard's 10-year-old son was rescued and several other swimmers made it out of the water. Gaspard gained prominence in the WWE as one half of the tag-team group Cryme Time, along with his partner, JTG. After retiring from the WWE in 2010, Gaspard has had small roles on TV and in movies, including the 2015 Kevin Hart comedy "Get Hard."
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