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Saturday, November 15, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sports Briefing

McMurray takes last pole in Winston Cup history

Jamie McMurray won a historic pole yesterday — the first on the reconfigured Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida and the last in NASCAR's Winston Cup Series era.

McMurray, leading Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., in the battle for rookie of the year, led the way in qualifying for tomorrow's season-ending Ford 400 with a lap of 181.111 mph on the 1-1/2-mile oval, drastically changed since last year from a mere 6 degrees of banking to 20 degrees all around.

"It's exciting to come to a brand-new racetrack and run that well," McMurray said. "This place has so much grip that we didn't have to do a lot for qualifying."

Tomorrow will mark the end of a 33-year association between NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and its Winston brand. Beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, NASCAR's major series will be known as the Nextel Cup.

"My dad is big into stuff like that," McMurray said. "He said, 'Man, you're going to be the last guy to win a Winston Cup pole.' I think that's neat, but I didn't care if it came in the first race or the last one."

Biffle, who trails McMurray by 33 points in the rookie race, will start 25th in the Ford 400. Biffle has the pole for today's Ford 300, a NASCAR Busch Series race.

Last night, Bobby Hamilton won the Ford 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and Travis Kvapil took the season title.

Tennis

Wimbledon champion Roger Federer overwhelmed French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3, 6-1 at the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston to give himself a chance of finishing the season ranked No. 2.

Federer will play American Andy Roddick in today's semifinal round. The top-ranked Roddick beat Guillermo Coria 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3.

Ferrero will slide from No. 2 to No. 3 if Federer wins the tournament.

The other semifinal will pit American Andre Agassi against Rainer Schuettler.

Anna Kournikova of Russia said she hopes to return to competition by March after an absence of nearly 10 months because of a back injury.

Boxing

Thailand's Pongsaklek Wonjongkam kept his WBC flyweight crown with a unanimous decision over Australia's Hussein Hussein in Bangkok, Thailand.

Figure skating

American Sasha Cohen skated a lyrical, error-free short program to move atop the standings at the Lalique Trophy in Paris.

The 19-year-old Cohen flew through her opening triple lutz-double toe loop jump, landing softly and then moving into a triple flip at high speed.

Cohen, who received a score of 69.38, is the favorite to win gold after today's long program. Her closest rivals are Shizuka Arakawa of Japan and Julia Sebestyen of Hungary.

In the men's competition, reigning world champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia won the short program. American champion Michael Weiss finished third behind Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, a high-school student.

Volleyball

The United States women's team earned a berth in the 2004 Olympics, finishing third in the World Cup after a 25-23, 25-18, 25-17 victory over Cuba in Osaka, Japan. First-place China and runner-up Brazil also won berths.

Weightlifting

Olympic champion Galabin Boevski and two other Bulgarian weightlifters, Georgi Markov and Zlatan Vanev, were banned from the world championships in Vancouver, B.C., because of tampering with their urine samples.

Speedskating

Apolo Ohno of Seattle was the U.S. Olympic Committee's male athlete of the month for October.

Soccer

Chris Armas scored in overtime as the Chicago Fire beat the visiting New England Revolution 1-0 to win the Eastern Conference championship of Major League Soccer.

Chicago advances to the Nov. 23 MLS Cup in Carson, Calif., against the winner of tonight's West final between Kansas City and host San Jose.

— Seattle Times news services

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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