Auto racing: Jimmie Johnson is returning to his dominant ways at the perfect time. His latest accomplishment: the fastest qualifying lap of the NASCAR season.
The three-time defending Sprint Cup champion and points leader looked the part Thursday, earning the pole at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., with a blistering lap of 192.376 mph.
Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet had the best grip in the rain-delayed qualifying in unseasonably cool conditions.
Mark Martin, sitting second in points, will start second after a lap of 191.816 mph. Kasey Kahne qualified third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart.
Johnson took the points lead for the first time this season after winning Sunday at California. It was clear from the practice session Thursday that Johnson had the best car.
The previous fastest lap was 190.907 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas.
•Biffle speaks out on Logano: Greg Biffle was just trying to get a little payback when he forced Joey Logano into the wall during last week’s Nationwide Series race.
He didn’t intend – and doesn’t want – to start an ongoing feud with the entire Logano family.
Biffle apologized, sort of, for squeezing Logano up the track at Auto Club Speedway, an incident that led to a postrace confrontation between Biffle and Logano’s father.
“I probably shouldn’t have run Joey out of room,” Biffle said before qualifying for this weekend’s Sprint Cup event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Beason apologizes to teammate Peppers
Football: Jon Beason apologized for calling out Carolina teammate Julius Peppers for his lack of production last week, even after the Panthers responded with their first win.
“After what happened, I realized I was wrong,” Beason said on radio station WFNZ. “There are certain things you shouldn’t say in public, certain things that should remain in-house. That’s where I made my mistake.”
Peppers, a four-time Pro Bowl choice making an NFL-high $16.7 million salary this season, had just one sack and 10 tackles in Carolina’s 0-3 start.
•Stafford’s status uncertain: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been held out of practice for the third time in four days, leaving his availability in question for Sunday’s game at Green Bay.
The No. 1 overall draft choice suffered a knee injury in Detroit’s Oct. 4 loss at Chicago and sat out last weekend’s game against Pittsburgh.
•Former Ram and Seahawk Bryant dies: Cullen Bryant, a mainstay of the Los Angeles Rams for 11 seasons and a running back on their 1980 Super Bowl team, has died. He was 58.
Bryant died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., according to sister-in-law Wanda E. Bryant. He spent the 1983-84 seasons with the Seahawks.
•USC’s Johnson drops in on teammates: Injured tailback Stafon Johnson made a surprise appearance at Southern California’s team meeting in Los Angeles, before the sixth-ranked Trojans’ trip to Notre Dame.
Johnson was released from the hospital on Wednesday, just 16 days after his neck and throat were crushed in a weightlifting accident. The senior won’t play again this season, but is continuing his rehabilitation at home.
Pernice Jr. among three leading field
Golf: Champions Tour winner Tom Pernice Jr. shot a bogey-free 9-under-par 62 for a share of the first-round lead with Troy Matteson and Spencer Levin in the PGA Tour’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
The 50-year-old Pernice birdied his final two holes – Nos. 8 and 9 – at TPC Summerlin.
Bob Heintz and Martin Laird were a stroke back. Former Pullman resident Kirk Triplett was among five players to shoot a 65.
Lidstrom reaches milestone in Detroit
Hockey: Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European defenseman to reach 1,000 points, assisting on two goals in the Detroit Red Wings’ 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Detroit.
The Swedish star has 229 goals and 771 assists in 1,336 career games.
•Avalanche score late to win: Ryan O’Reilly scored his first NHL goal 13:47 into the third to help the Colorado Avalanche win 3-2 at Montreal, spoiling the Canadiens’ 100th home opener.
Japanese gymnast wins gold in London
Miscellany: Kohei Uchimura ran away with the men’s title at the world gymnastics championships in London, adding it to his silver medal from the Beijing Olympics. He scored 91.500 points, more than 2 1/2 ahead of Daniel Keatings, who delighted the O2 Arena by giving Britain its first all-around medal.
Russia’s Yury Ryazanov was third. American Tim McNeill finished seventh. U.S. champion Jonathan Horton was 17th.
•Investors seek WNBA team in Tulsa: With new supporters on board, a group of investors in Tulsa said they will formally apply to the WNBA to purchase a franchise.
Lead investor Bill Cameron said his group expected a decision from the league by the end of October.