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Sports in brief


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Dale jr.: good for 2017

HOMESTEAD — Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be medically cleared from his concussion in December and ready to race in the 2017 Daytona 500.

Team owner Rick Hendrick said Earnhardt, 42, recently texted and said he was just waiting for Daytona to return to the track. Earnhardt has not raced since July 9. The season-opening Daytona 500 is Feb. 26.

"He feels great. Everything's on track," Hendrick said Friday. "Every step that we need to go through, we've gone through."

Hendrick said Earnhardt's absence has not affected sponsorship for 2017.

HOMESTEAD QUALIFYING: Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski swept the front row in qualifying for Sunday's sold-out finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson are racing for the championship. Busch starts ninth, Edwards 10th, Logano 13th and Johnson 14th. Tony Stewart starts 11th in the final race of his NASCAR career.

fantasy sports

DraftKings, FanDuel agree to merger

Daily fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel have agreed to merge after a turbulent year in which both of their values plummeted as several attorneys general questioned the legality of their games in their states. The merger must be approved by regulators and will be time-consuming — the companies said they expected the deal to close in the second half of 2017. Until then, both sides will operate under their own brands. Lobbying and legal costs had damaged both companies' bottom lines to the extent that representatives of the companies last month asked the New York Attorney General's Office to allow them to pay a combined $12 million settlement in installments after claims they employed false and deceptive advertising practices, the New York Times reported. FanDuel, based in New York, reportedly recently laid off more than 60 people, and both companies have acknowledged they are months behind in payments to vendors.


Leipzig a surprise leader in Bundesliga

In one of the most startling developments in European soccer this season, newcomer RB Leipzig stormed to the top of the German Bundesliga by coming from behind twice to earn a 3-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen. Leipzig also set a Bundesliga record by staying undefeated in its first 11 matches after promotion. The team has won six straight games.

U.S. WOMEN: Talks are ongoing between players for the World Cup-winning U.S. women's national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation in advance of the Dec. 31 expiration of their current contract. The season ended last week.


Murray keeps pace with Djokovic in ATP

Andy Murray qualified for the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals by beating Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-2 in London. Murray, who needs to do better than Novak Djokovic this weekend in the season-ending tournament to finish as the top-ranked player, broke Wawrinka late in the first set and twice at the start of the second. In today's semifinals, Djokovic faces Kei Nishikori, and Murray faces Milos Raonic.

et cetera

BOXING: Andre Ward, a 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, tonight faces big puncher Sergey Kovalev, who came from Russia to the United States seven years ago. The pay-per-view bout in Las Vegas is for Kovalev's light heavyweight titles. Both are 30-0.

Times wires

Sports in brief 11/18/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2016 8:38pm]
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  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    The 10 strikeouts look flashy, but RHP Chris Archer was not his sharpest Thursday. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including three straight in the two-run second and a Gary Sanchez homer in the third, and lasted only six innings, throwing 102 pitches.

  2. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  3. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda
  4. Bucs' direction is decidedly up for first time in several years


    TAMPA — If you want to see a team give the Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to expectations, check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Tight end O.J. Howard, left, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick this year, was brought in to give QB Jameis Winston another big-play option.
  5. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Friday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the dugout during the ninth inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, April 2, 2017. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 7-3.