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Published Jan. 27, 2012


NASCAR aims to thwart tandems

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said the sport is "in a very good place" but the racing body will make a few tweaks, including taking measures to reduce tandem racing at Daytona and Talladega.

Two-car racing "evolved into something that no one saw coming, and now we're going to deal with that," France said Thursday at NASCAR's annual preseason press conference.

Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said cars will have a slightly larger restrictor plate, a smaller spoiler and softer springs. The changes start at Daytona next month. "All of these combinations will help the qualifying be more exciting," said Pemberton, who added that the changes "will aid in getting back to the more traditional style pack drafting."

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'Awesome Bill' returns

Bill Elliott, 56, is returning to NASCAR for one more race. The former champion in the top series will compete in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7 in a No. 50 car sponsored by Walmart as part of its 50th anniversary.

24 hours: Ryan Dalziel captured the pole for Grand-Am's around-the-clock race beginning Saturday at Daytona.

Obituary: Joseph Mattioli, founder of Pocono Raceway, died in Allentown, Pa. He was 86.


College Baseball: Florida tops the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 coaches poll, the first time the Gators have been selected No. 1 in the preseason rankings. UF had previously been tabbed No. 1 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball entering this season.

College football: UCF released its 2012 schedule, which includes a trip Sept. 8 to Ohio State and the home opener Sept. 15 against FIU. New SEC member Missouri visits Sept. 29 before the Conference USA opener Oct. 6 against East Carolina. … Texas regents officially extended the contract of coach Mack Brown, 60, by four years to 2020.

Figure skating: Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, who train in Manatee County, were runnersup to pairs short program champions Rockne Brubaker and Mary Beth Marley at the U.S. championships in San Jose, Calif. Caydee Denney of Wesley Chapel and John Coughlin, who won the last two U.S. titles with different partners, are third going into Saturday's free skate.

Horses: Jr's Exchange set a 5-furlong turf-course record of 54.92 seconds in Race 9 at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar.

Soccer: Goalkeeper Hope Solo (strained thigh) practiced with the U.S. women's team on the eve of its CONCACAF semifinal today against Costa Rica. The Americans must win to qualify for the London Olympics. … John Rooney, younger brother of Man U's Wayne Rooney, has signed to play with Orlando City Soccer Club of the USL.

Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires