STEWART WINS CRASH-MARRED NATIONWIDE EVENT: As emergency workers tended to injured fans and ambulance sirens wailed in the background, a somber Tony Stewart skipped the traditional post-race victory celebration following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
A last-lap accident sent rookie Kyle Larson's car sailing into the fence that separates the track from the seats, and large chunks of Larson's car landed in the grandstands. The car itself had its entire front end sheared off, with a piece of burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.
Stewart, who won for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races, was in no mood to celebrate.
"The important thing is what going on on the frontstretch right now," said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. "We've always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it's hard. We assume that risk, but it's hard when the fans get caught up in it."
At least 33 fans were injured. Speedway President Joie Chitwood said 14 fans were treated on site, and 14 others were taken to hospitals. Chitwood didn't give any updates on their conditions. Local officials said 19 fans were taken to neighboring hospitals, including two who were arrived in critical condition but were later listed in stable condition.
"First and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," Chitwood said. "Following the incident we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols, and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately."
Chitwood said the track will "be ready to go racing" in time for today's Daytona 500. He said he doesn't anticipate moving any fans from those affected seats for today's race. He said the fence that separates the track from the seats will be repaired. The grandstands where fans were injured are about 200 feet from the start-finish line.
PIGATTI NETS 200TH WIN: South Suburban College (27-3) shot 75 percent from the field (61 of 81), crushing Columbia College 131-35, to give coach John Pigatti his 200th career win.
Michael Harris (E.C. Central) and Kadeem Thornton each notched 20 points among seven Bulldogs who scored in double figures and 14 who scored overall. Harris also handed out seven assists. SSC opens the Region IV-A playoffs Thursday at home.
BEARS SIGN RECEIVERS COACH: The Bears on Saturday reached an agreement with Mike Groh to be the team’s wide receivers coach.
Groh has spent the last two seasons as Alabama’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, helping lead the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national championships, his third at the University after serving as an offensive graduate assistant in 2009.
POULTER, MAHAN PART OF MATCH PLAY SEMIS: The stars are gone from the Match Play Championship. Still alive are Ian Poulter and Hunter Mahan, the best in match play over the last few years.
Poulter added to his reputation as one tough customer Saturday when he beat Steve Stricker with one big putt after another, raising his record in this fickle format to 19-3-2 over the last four years.
Mahan outlasted U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson in 18 holes, leaving him two wins away from joining Tiger Woods as the only repeat winners of this World Golf Championship.
Poulter and Mahan meet this morning in the semifinals. Matt Kuchar faces Jason Day of Australia in the other pairing.
WHITE SOX WIN SPRING TRAINING OPENER: Clayton Kershaw got off to a shaky start in his spring debut for the Dodgers in a 9-0 loss to the White Sox on Saturday.
The 2011 NL Cy Young winner allowed two runs and four hits in two innings. The Dodgers' opening day starter also made a wild pickoff throw.
Alejandro De Aza hit a leadoff single in the Chicago first and later scored on the first of two doubles by Alex Rios. Alexei Ramirez singled and scored on a double by Gordon Beckham in the second.
CUBS CRUSH ANGELS: Luis Valbuena got off to a great start in his bid to win more playing time with the Cubs, hitting a home run that helped Chicago beat a Los Angeles Angels split squad 11-2 Saturday in the spring training opener for both teams.
NOLL SELLING SECTIONAL TICKETS: Tickets for the Class 2A Wheeler Sectional will be on sale in the main office at Bishop Noll from 3 to 4 p.m. Monday for Noll fans and alumni. Cost is $10 for the whole session. Enter door A.