Bubba Wallace became the second Black driver to win a NASCAR race since Wendell Scott first broke the barrier in 1963 after rain shortened a Cup Series playoff race Monday at Talladega Superspeedway. Wallace had driven through a crash and to the front of the field five laps before the second rain stoppage of the race. NASCAR tried to dry the track for nearly 45 minutes, but up against sundown and the rain not showing any signs of ceasing, the race was called off. Wallace had been waiting atop his pit stand for NASCAR to make a decision and exploded in celebration with his crew when the race was called. Wallace is in his first season driving for 23X1 Racing, a team owned by both Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan. Wallace followed Scott, the first Black driver to win at NASCAR’s premier level in a 1963 race he wasn’t declared the victor for several months. NASCAR at last presented Scott’s family with his trophy from that race two months ago. Wallace broke down in tears after he’d returned to his parked No. 23 Toyota, the number which was picked for co-owner Jordan, who wore 23 in the NBA. “This is for all the kids out there that want to have an opportunity and whatever they want to achieve, and be the best at what they want to do,” Wallace said as he choked back tears. “You’re going to go through a lot of [adversity]. But you always got to stick true to your path and not let the nonsense get to you. Stay strong. Stay humble. Stay hungry. Been plenty of times when I wanted to give up.” In June 2020 at Talladega, NASCAR discovered a noose in the garage stall assigned to Wallace. The finding came just a week after Wallace urged NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at its events. The FBI investigated and found that the noose was tied at the end of the garage door pull and Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime. The entire industry rallied around him, though, and stood in solidarity with Wallace at his car at the front of the grid before the race. The NASCAR playoffs resume Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval, a hybrid road course/oval, where the playoff field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight after that elimination event.
Flyers coach Alain Vigneault denies accusations
Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault denied accusations that he ever gave players drugs without doctor’s consent as suggested in a string of social media posts by former player Robin Lehner. In a series of tweets Saturday, Lehner, currently playing for the Vegas Golden Knights, said he knows “many” teams that give sedatives and anxiety pills to players without a doctor’s prescription. He referenced the Flyers and Vigneault and claimed to have proof. “As far as the other thing, pushing pills, I don’t need another income,” Vigneault said. “I have no idea where that comes from. I don’t know what else to say. I have no idea.” The NHL has reached out to Lehner to set up an interview over his claims. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said the team leaves health decisions to doctors, not coaches, and said the team has “no reason to believe any of our players have received improper care. Lehner also accused the Buffalo Sabres of mismanaging an ankle injury when he played for them. His comments appeared to be related to the stalemate between Buffalo and star forward Jack Eichel over how to treat a herniated disk. The 60-year-old Vigneault is starting his third season with the Flyers. Vigneault has led the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final and has won more than 700 games as an NHL coach. “I consider myself experienced. I’d say with experience, you become a dinosaur, maybe,” he said. “I do know that I’ve been coaching a few years and I am tough, I am demanding. I care about players. I’ve wanted their best through the years. Probably, there are some guys that have liked me, some guys a little bit less. But I’ve done it with the best intentions, with respect.”
Minnesota RB remains hospitalized
Minnesota running back Trey Potts remained in a hospital two days after an undisclosed ailment that arose late in the team’s game at Purdue. The university’s athletic department said in a released statement Potts’ condition was “improving” and that he was “doing well.” Potts, who is second in the Big Ten with 552 rushing yards, left the field late in the fourth quarter on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. After immediate observation and treatment by the team’s medical staff, Potts was transported to a nearby hospital for further attention . . . The Southeastern Conference fined Kentucky $250,000 for violating its access to competition area policy after fans rushed the field at the end of the Wildcats’ 20-13 victory over then-No. 10 Florida last Saturday. A crowd of 61,632 watched Kentucky (5-0, 3-0) earn its first home victory over Florida since 1986 and first over a Top-10 opponent since 2010 . . . University of Tennessee coach Josh Heupel named Hendon Hooker as the the starting quarterback for the Volunteers’ SEC home game Saturday against South Carolina, replacing Joe Milton, a redshirt junior transfer from Michigan. Hooker, a redshirt senior transfer from Virginia Tech, completed 15 of 19 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 15 times for 60 yards and another score in a 62-24 rout of Missouri . . . Syracuse coach Dino Babers confirmed junior wide receiver Taj Harris plans to transfer. Babers said he spoke to Harris before Saturday’s game at Florida State and afterward and said Harris, who did not travel to Florida with the team, decided “the best opportunity for him” would be to transfer. The speedy 6-foot-2, 180-pound Harris, who has two years of eligibility remaining, set Syracuse rookie records for receptions and receiving yards in 2018 with 40 catches for 565 yards.
ATP probes Alexander Zverev for domestic abuse
After months of delay and complaints from players and tennis officials, the Association of Tennis Professionals announced it would investigate Alexander Zverev after accusations of domestic abuse made by a former girlfriend. Zverev, 24, a rising star from Germany ranked fourth in the world in men’s singles, has strongly denied accusations that he was violent with Olya Sharypova during a series of physical altercations. Sharypova, a Russian national, has not filed any criminal charges over the incidents, which, she said, took place in 2019. The two began dating when they were teenagers, but the relationship ended more than a year ago. Before the US Open, Zverev sought an injunction in court in Germany to prevent further reporting on the allegations by Slate, which had published a lengthy article on them by Ben Rothenberg, a freelance tennis writer who sometimes writes for The New York Times. The court granted the injunction, and Zverev pointed to it as a confirmation of his innocence.
Mohegan Sun suspends WNBA wagers
The Mohegan Sun casino announced it had suspended wagering on the WNBA after questions were raised over a potential conflict in taking bets on the Connecticut Sun, a team also owned by the Mohegan Tribe. The issue came up after Gov. Ned Lamont opened the sportsbook last Thursday, the first day of legalized sports betting in Connecticut, by placing a $50 bet on the Sun to win its playoff game with the Chicago Sky . . . Claudio Ranieri is back in the English Premier League after being hired as Watford manager. The 69-year-old Italian, reknowned for leading Leicester to an unlikely Premier League title in 2016 against 5000-to-1 odds, replaced Xisco Munoz, who was fired on Sunday. Ranieri, who also coached at Chelsea and Fulham, signed a two-year deal at a club which has a recent history of getting rid of managers after only brief spells in charge . . . Defender John Brooks will miss three World Cup qualifiers with the US men’s national team this month because of a back injury. Wolfsburg coach Mark van Bommel said Monday the 28-year-old Brooks will not travel from Germany to Austin, Texas, where the Americans play Jamaica on Thursday night.