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Daytona pole-sitter still fast in slower era

Even Bill Elliott was impressed with the speeds at Daytona in 1987.

"Back then, when you left the pits, you didn't know if you were coming back," Elliott said.

He was "Awesome Bill" in those days of unrestricted engines, regularly raising the limits of stock car speed on NASCAR's superspeedways.

Elliott won Daytona 500 poles each year from 1985-87, raising the speedway's qualifying record from 201.848 mph to an eye-popping 210.364.

"I was thinking about when I ran 210 here," said Elliott, who won his first Daytona pole in 14 years on Saturday with an almost pedestrian lap of 183.565 -- held down by the carburetor restrictor plates that NASCAR now uses to sap horsepower and slow the cars in the interest of safety.

"To me, that 210 was about the most impressive thing I ever did because of how well I know this track and how hard it is to get around," added Elliott, who went on to set an all-time NASCAR qualifying record of 212.809 two months later at Talladega Superspeedway and won the Winston Cup title the next year.

Former pole-winner Mike Skinner turned the fastest lap Tuesday, at 189.247 mph, during the hourlong practice on the high-banked 2 1/2 -mile oval.

Ricky Craven's Ford was second-fastest at 189.1919.

Dodge swept the front row for the Friday's Florida Dodge Dealers 250 NASCAR Truck opener as veteran Joe Ruttman won his second consecutive pole and Scott Riggs took second. Ruttman, 56, the oldest pole winner in series history, turned a lap at 186.123 mph.

Yankees sign Cuban to challenge Brosius

The New York Yankees would love for their latest Cuban defector to be as good as their first.

Andy Morales, a third baseman who homered for Cuba in an exhibition game against Baltimore two years ago, has agreed to a contract with the Yankees, the Associated Press learned.

While the Yankees did not announce the agreement, it was confirmed Tuesday by two sources. The deal is worth more than $4 million for four years, the sources said.

Morales, who hopes to compete with incumbent third baseman Scott Brosius, already has been assigned No. 87 and was listed Tuesday on a roster at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., where pitchers and catchers report today.

The roster also included free-agent outfielder Henry Rodriguez, who has been assigned No. 45. Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed in mid-January to a $1.5 million, one-year contract, but New York has not announced that signing, either.

Morales, 26, hit a three-run, ninth-inning homer at Camden Yards two years ago when Cuba's national team beat the Orioles 12-6. He had two hits earlier in the game and ran around the bases with his arms spread wide after homering.

In other baseball news:

Atlanta Braves pitcher Kevin Millwood lost his salary arbitration case. He will get a raise from $420,000 to $3.1 million but had been seeking $3.9 million.

Mike Sirotka has a partially torn rotator cuff and damaged shoulder, and the Toronto Blue Jays will ask the White Sox to rework last month's deal that sent David Wells to Chicago. A day after examining Sirotka, Dr. James Andrews said today that Sirotka was injured at the time of the trade and cannot currently pitch. Toronto said it will pass on Andrews' diagnosis to the Sox and "seek adequate compensation."

Titans' quarterback spent time in hospital

Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair spent three days in the hospital with an infected shoulder, the same ailment that caused him to pull out of the Pro Bowl. McNair was admitted to Baptist Hospital last week with a fever and pain in his right shoulder, Titans spokesman Robbie Bohren said Tuesday. Doctors cut a hole into his shoulder to clean up the infected area, and McNair now is receiving daily doses of antibiotics.

Elsewhere in the NFL:

The new stadium for the Arizona Cardinals will be built in Tempe, just a mile from where the team now plays. The stadium, with a retractable roof and natural grass field that would slide out of the structure when not in use, is to open for the 2004 season.

The Washington Redskins said they'll let wide receiver Albert Connell become a free agent rather than re-sign him.

Receiver Chris Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings will serve at least 12 days in jail after pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Lendl, Rose voted into tennis Hall of Fame

Ivan Lendl, a Grand Slam champion, former Davis Cup hero and busy tennis parent, will now be a Hall of Famer, too.

Lendl and Mervyn Rose, an Australian star from the '50s, will be inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., July 14. The elections were announced Tuesday.

"It's the ultimate honor in the game," said Lendl, 40, who has kept a low profile since retiring in 1994. Bothered by a bad back, he restricts his tennis to practice with his children. Four of his five kids, all 10 and younger, play the New England tournament circuit.

Bengals' hockey hopes evaporate with defeat

The slim playoff hopes of Buffalo State's men's hockey team expired with a 5-2 loss to Fredonia. Erik Hlavaty (Hamburg) led Fredonia with two goals, while Rocky Reeves and Joe Urbanik tallied for Buffalo State (12-12-1 overall, 4-10 in SUNYAC).

In women's basketball, Lori Davis (Salamanca) had eight three-pointers in scoring 28 points in Erie CC's 84-50 win over Niagara CCC. Chaney Barlow (South Park) added 18 points and 24 rebounds. . . . D'Youville received 13 points from Trisha Peter in a 61-47 win over Ursuline (Ohio). . . . Fredonia got 21 points from Renee Harpster in its 74-62 win over Oswego.

Monty Montgomery (Bennett) had 19 points and 12 rebounds in Daemen's 81-73 men's basketball win over Houghton. . . . Hilbert finished an undefeated home season with a 68-67 overtime win over Medaille as Mike Tyszka (West Seneca East) had 16 points for the Hawks (12-9). Todd Kane (St. Francis) led Medialle (5-18) with 16 points. . . . Mike Gibbons' 17 points paced Fredonia in a 64-55 win over Oswego

Gregg Rosowski (Frontier) had 10 kills, 26 assists and 11 digs for D'Youville in a three-game men's volleyball sweep of Medaille.

Bichon Frise named Westminster's top dog

A Bichon Frise strutted past 2,500 other dogs to win best-in-show at the 125th Westminster Kennel Club competition Tuesday in New York.

Special Times Just Right!, called J.R. by handler Scott Sommer, finished out a stellar career with his 98th lifetime best-in-show title.

This victory came in America's most prestigious show, and the little dog celebrated by beating his paws in the air.

"He's pretty smart. He's loving it," Sommer said. "He knows he did good."

Basketball tonight

St. Bonaventure ends a three-game homestand tonight when it hosts La Salle at the Reilly Center (7:30; 1300). It will be the second time in 11 days the teams have met; the Bonnies (14-8 overall, 5-5 in the Atlantic 10 Conference) took an 80-76 overtime decision over the Explorers (10-12, 4-7) in Philadelphia on Feb. 3.

Bona center Peter Van Paassen is listed as questionable for the game. He is suffering from tendinitis in his right ankle.

La Salle is paced by two of the nation's top scorers. Rasual Butler averages 22.5 points per game, while Victor Thomas has scored 20 points per game.

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