DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) – No woman had ever captured the pole for any race in NASCAR’s premier circuit until Danica Patrick’s performance in Sunday’s qualifying session for the Daytona 500. Patrick was the eighth driver to post a qualifying time, finishing in 45.817 seconds and averaging 196.434 mph. Jeff Gordon was the only other driver to top 196 mph in qualifying, giving him the other spot in the front row for next Sunday’s race.
HOUSTON (AP) – Chris Paul came away with MVP honors after the West beat the East 143-138 in the NBA All-Star game in Houston last night. Paul finished with 20 points, 15 assists and four steals, while Clippers teammate Blake Griffin added 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Kevin Durant topped all scorers with 30 points for the West, and Carmelo Anthony paced the East with 26.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – John Merrick has claimed his first PGA victory and a berth in the upcoming Masters by outlasting Charley Beljan (BEHL’-jihn) in the Northern Open at Riviera Country Club. Merrick hit two clutch shots that led to par in a sudden-death playoff, but the victory wasn’t sealed until Beljan missed a 5-foot par putt on the second extra hole. Beljan birdied his final hole of regulation for a 4-under-par 67, tying Merrick at 11-under.
MESA, Ariz. (AP) – Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza will have to miss at least a few days of practice. Garza suffered a mild back strain on his left side while throwing batting practice to teammates yesterday. Team officials said they would know more about his prognosis after he is examined again today, although Garza said he didn’t think the injury will cause him to miss the start of the regular season.
UNDATED (AP) – Defending champion Victoria Azarenka (ah-zah-REN’-kuh) beat Serena Williams 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 to win the Qatar (GUH’-tur) Open. Azarenka captured her 16th career title and snapped a 10-match losing streak against Williams. And Rafael Nadal (rah-fay-ehl nah-DAHL’) is back in the win column, beating David Nalbandian (nal-BAN’-dee-uhn) 6-2, 6-3 in the Brazil Open final for his first title since returning from a seven-month layoff to treat his left knee.