Sports Briefs 2-23-14

MARK LONG AP Sports Writer Published:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch's thrilling move in the final few hundred feet of the Truck Series season opener led to his 99th win outside NASCAR's top series.

The victory infuriated many fans. NASCAR heard them loud and clear.

NASCAR said Saturday it is looking at potentially limiting the number of second- and third-tier event Sprint Cup regulars can run during the season. Officials have already talked about a potential rules adjustments, and Busch's win Friday night surely will lead to more discussions.

Maybe even a change.

"We're definitely aware of the fan messaging we get," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations. "There's a balance, especially talking to the tracks, of having a Cup driver or two in the Trucks or Nationwide. ... We have had discussions with the race teams about ownership and should Cup drivers get points and we've looked at should they be limited in the number of races.

"It's something we are really studying."

Busch has 63 wins in the Nationwide Series and 36 more in the Truck Series. Busch and fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski own Truck teams, and NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. owns a Nationwide team.

• Auto Racing

Nationwide opener: Regan Smith won the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway by edging Brad Keselowski at the finish line in overtime.

It was redemption for Smith, who was leading on the last lap a year ago when he tried to block Keselowski to preserve the win. It triggered a 12-car accident that sent Kyle Larson's car into the fence. Nearly 30 fans were injured from debris that sailed into the grandstands. The win was Smith's fourth career victory in the Nationwide Series, but first at Daytona.

Keselowski finished second, .013 seconds behind. The finish was the second-closest at Daytona International Speedway and seventh closest in series history. Trevor Bayne was third, Kyle Busch fourth and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Elliott Sadler was fifth.

Nominees selected: Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte, a pair of Cup champions, are among the first-year eligible nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Drivers Mike Stefanik and Buddy Baker, and engine builder and team owner Robert Yates also were selected for nomination in their first year. The honorees were announced at Daytona International Speedway on Friday by a 22-person committee of representatives from all over NASCAR.

• Football

Denies rumor: San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York denied his team nearly traded coach Jim Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns last month for draft picks.

York shot down a report Friday by Pro Football Talk, posting on Twitter: "Is this on the record? Report isn't true." Pro Football Talk reported that a deal was in place that would have sent Harbaugh to coach Cleveland, but he opted to stay put. The 50-year-old Harbaugh just completed his third season of a $25 million, five-year contract and declined to address the subject of an extension or any scheduled talks after the season with York, who had said he hoped to meet with the coach.

Surgery for Miller: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had minor outpatient surgery on his right shoulder on Friday morning.

A release from Ohio State said the surgery on his throwing shoulder took place at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Miller, the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, will be limited in his activities throughout spring drills.

The Buckeyes begin practices on March 4 and play their annual spring intrasquad scrimmage on April 12 at Ohio Stadium.

• Elsewhere

Match play down to four: Ernie Els has reached the semifinals of the Match Play Championship for the first time in 13 years. The four-time major champion still hasn't played great golf at Dove Mountain, but it was good enough to get past 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who was clearly frustrated in losing on the 16th hole.

Graeme McDowell had a lead for the first time all week -- and he wound up losing. His magical week ended on the 18th hole when he lost to Victor Dubuisson of France in a tight match. Els next plays the Frenchman.

Jason Day took out an ailing Louis Oosthuizen to reach the semifinals for the second straight year. Day next plays Rickie Fowler, who won the last two holes for a 1-up win over Jim Furyk.

Learning new rule: Major league teams will each have at least five games this spring where managers can challenge plays as part of the major expansion of instant replay which begins this season.

The new rules allow each manager to challenge one call a game. If he wins the first one, he'll earn another challenge. The crew chief can request a review after the seventh inning if the manager has used his challenges.

Makeup date set: No. 15 Iowa and Indiana have settled on the makeup date for their game that was postponed this week after an 8-foot piece of metal fell from the ceiling at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

The teams will play Feb. 27 at Indiana in a game that will air on ESPN at 9 p.m. EST. The March 1 Purdue at Iowa game will now be played on March 2 at 2 p.m. ET.

Venus wins Dubai: Venus Williams won her 45th career WTA title at the Dubai Championships in an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Alize Cornet of France in the final on Saturday. The 44th-ranked Williams will move up to No. 29 in Monday's updated rankings.

Not expected back: The Detroit Red Wings don't expect Henrik Zetterberg to play again during the regular season. Zetterberg had back surgery Friday in New York to remove a fragmented disk.

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