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OH, BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Carl Edwards reportedly dislocated a thumb after being involved in an accident in a Late Models race Sunday at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. His brother, Kenny, characterized the injury to the Omaha World-Herald, which reported the Busch Series points leader was treated and released from a local hospital. This situation will undoubtedly rekindle debate over whether drivers should be made to sign activity-restrictive clauses in contracts such as in other sports. Short answer: no. Let them play. (But it's wiser to keep them occupied seven days a week, if you're their team owner).

Other notable injuries traceable to extra-vehicular activities:

1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. sustained second-degree burns to his legs and face during an American Le Mans Series race in 2004 at Sonoma, Calif., driving a prototype Corvette at the behest of General Motors. He started his Nextel Cup race the following week but ceded early to relief driver Martin Truex.

2 Defending Nextel Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson broke his left wrist in December at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto when he was thrown from the top of a moving golf cart during Mike Hampton's celebrity tournament.

3 Tony Stewart, then defending series champ, was shaken up after being involved in a multiflip crash driving in the annual Chili Bowl sprint car race in Tulsa, Okla., before the start of the 2006 season.

4 Scott Riggs cut the bottom of his feet on oyster shells trying to launch a personal water craft in June 2006 at Myrtle Beach, S.C., requiring 20 stitches.

5 Former Champ Car champion Paul Tracy broke his shoulder in November jumping sand dunes with (depending on which of his versions you choose) an ATV or a golf cart and missed the final race of the season.

Two's a cloud

Dario Franchitti certainly knows how to take the vinegar out of a potential challenger. Scott Dixon on Sunday became just the third Indy Racing League driver to win three consecutive races and still trails the points leader by 24. Imagine how frustrated the rest of the field must be.

Franchitti, a winner of three races this season, including the Indianapolis 500, posted his 11th straight top-five finish with a second-place showing Sunday. With winners awarded 50 points for a victory, the rest of the field appears lapped with five races left, barring complete calamity.

"We're just trying to close in," said Dixon, who won at Watkins Glen and Nashville. "That's the problem with Dario - he's just so consistent. When we're winning, he's in the top three. It would have been nice if he would have had a fourth or fifth today and we could have really closed in."

New road

The IRL's slow progression toward a balance in oval and nonoval venues is bearing on who can win its championship. The league has contested as many nonoval events this season (three) as ever since the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen were added to the schedule in 2005, and two events remain.

It's not surprising, therefore, that the two drivers with a realistic shot at winning the title this season are superlative nonoval racers with a lineage to the road course and street-racing Champ Car series. Yes, Franchitti and Dixon are having overall exemplary seasons, but their dominance of ovals is distinguishing them.

Franchitti, whose average finish is 2.75, was fifth in the Grand Prix on April 1, third at Watkins Glen and second Sunday at Mid-Ohio. That's an average finish of 3.3 on nonovals. Dixon, whose average finish is 3.75, was second at St. Petersburg and won at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. He has an astounding 1.3 finishing average on nonovals.

Dan Wheldon, who has less of a road-racing background, won the Grand Prix and the IndyCar title in 2005 before the IRL outlawed traction control, putting more emphasis on drivers. Sam Hornish won the title last year but suffered three of his five worst finishes (eighth, 12th and ninth) on nonovals. He was 14th because of a wreck at Nashville and 19th at Michigan.

Short pits

Ginn Company said Monday that it has retained Champion Motorsports Marketing to find sponsorship not only for its NASCAR race teams but its PGA and LPGA tournaments. Ginn Racing last week shelved its Nextel Cup program for the No. 13 Chevrolet, formerly driven by Lakeland's Joe Nemechek, because of lack of sponsorship.

Brant James can be reached at brant@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8804.

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