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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.

soccer

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.

tennis

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. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  4. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State

    College

    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.