Devin Hester is done returning kicks in Chicago.The Bears confirmed Thursday that they are parting ways with the three-time Pro Bowl pick after eight seasons, confirming what he told the NFL Network the previous day. So instead of a return to Chicago, he’ll hit the market as a free agent. General manager Phil Emery said it had been an honor to have Hester on the team.”While Devin has redefined the pinnacle standard of the return position in the NFL, the memories and contributions he has given us cannot be measured by stats or numbers,” he said. “Not only is Devin a special player, he is also an exceptional person. He is a great teammate, husband and father. Devin represented the organization off-the-field as well as he did on it. When his career is over, he will always be a welcome member of the Bears family.”Hester matched Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’ NFL record with his 19th return touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard punt return at Washington in October. It was Hester’s 13th punt return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.He has also returned five kickoffs and a missed field goal for a touchdown. Hester is best remembered by Bears fans for returning the opening kickoff in the 2007 Super Bowl for a touchdown. He ran it back 92 yards for a score in a game won by Indianapolis.Hester endured several lulls on returns during his career, particularly when the Bears tried to make him a receiver. But he showed some of his old form while focusing solely on returns last season.He’s the second Bears star to leave the team in as many years: Last May, linebacker Brian Urlacher announced his retirement after 13 seasons, all with the Bears. The eight-time Pro Bowler and the team were unable to reach a deal a year ago and he eventually decided to call it quits.
NASCAR issued a statement of support for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto Wednesday night of a controversial bill heavily opposed by gay rights activists and one that many believed condoned discrimination.The bill, SB 1062, would have allowed people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense against claims of discrimination. The bill, which was written in generalities that did not describe what discrimination claims would be included, would have allowed businesses to deny services to homosexuals based on religious grounds. If not vetoed, the bill could have impacted the Arizona sports landscape. The 2015 Super Bowl host committee was concerned that the NFL would pull the 2015 Super Bowl from Phoenix if the bill was signed into law. Major League Baseball also has denounced the bill.NASCAR races in the Phoenix area this weekend with the Sprint Cup Series race scheduled for Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The track has two Cup races each year, including the next-to-last race of the season. “We are pleased with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB 1062,” NASCAR said in a statement. “NASCAR actively strives to promote diversity and inclusion throughout themotorsports industry.”NASCAR has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender, national origin, age, color, disability, religion, or other factors which deny the essential humanity of all people.”NASCAR disciplined two drivers last year for statements it considered discriminatory, including one that was a homophobic slur.
This is an excerpt from our Mock Draft 3.0 column, which broke down the latest Fantasy Source Experts’ Draft. Fantasy Source members can read the entire column, plus check out the full mock draft results.If you’re not a Fantasy Source member, you can subscribe now for just $4.99 per month and get access to all our great tools, including the , , , and much more. I’ll give myself credit for taking (No. 44). Scott Ridge took with the previous pick, and both of these guys could’ve easily been selected in Round 3. With the -Fernandez combo, I have the best 1-2 punch in the league/history of the world/universe. Of course, my hitting stats might suffer. Texas outfielders (No. 38) and (No. 47) both fall to this round. I’d rather have Choo. Eric Ferreira types “Ugh” into the chat after taking (No. 41), one round after he types “Ugh” into the chat after taking (No. 32). Both are perfectly reliable picks. Matt Lutovsky calls out Ferreira for typing “ugh” after every pick. Totally agree. Own your picks. Make your picks out to be the best picks ever if you want. Let the other owners say “ugh” for you. Draft-day sleepers | Draft Kit | Join Fantasy Source Round 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6-7 | 8-10 | 11-13 | 14-16 | 17-19 | 20-28
Bill Moos saw the losses piling up at the same rate as the apathy was growing among Washington State’s fans. It was clear that Ken Bone’s time as the men’s basketball coach was at an end.”I felt all along that Ken was a good coach and certainly a great guy but it just wasn’t working,” said Moos, the Cougars’ athletic director. “The record reflects that, the attendance at home games reflects that.” Bone was fired Tuesday morning after five seasons during which he was unable to sustain the success of his predecessor, Tony Bennett.Bone was 80-86 in five seasons at Washington State and just 29-61 in the Pac-12. He failed to reach the NCAA tournament during his tenure on the Palouse, which began when Bennett left after the 2009 season to take the top job at Virginia. Bone had taken Portland State to the NCAA tournament the two previous seasons, a goal he was never able to achieve with the Cougars.Bone was in the fifth year of a seven-year contract. His buyout included the final two years of his contract worth the remaining $1.7 million. The contracts of Bone’s assistants will be honored through the end of June, Moos said.Moos came to the realization about two-thirds of the way through the season that replacing Bone would be the likely outcome.”We were struggling and the attendance was as low as I’ve ever seen it, not only here but in any Pac-12 venue,” Moos said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.This year, the Cougars went 10-21 overall and just 3-15 in the league. They lost eight conference games in a row before beating UCLA in the regular-season finale. Attendance at Friel Court and interest in the WSU program has dwindled as the losses piled up. The Cougars averaged just 2,800 fans in 16 home games this season.It was a difficult season overall for the Cougars. Danny Lawhorn was dismissed before the season began, leaving WSU without an experienced point guard. Royce Woolridge has received the bulk of the time at the position.Leading scorer DaVonte Lacy missed eight games with appendicitis and a rib injury.Bone had called this “one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever coached.” Bone also said uncertainty surrounding his future had hurt the Cougars in their efforts to recruit players, and that rival coaches were using it to recruit against Washington State.”One of the areas that wasn’t up to expectations was in the area of recruiting,” Moos said.Moos said he has a short list of potential replacements and would like someone with head coaching experiencing at the NCAA level. Two names instantly linked to the job were former Oregon coach Ernie Kent, who worked for Moos in Eugene, and Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Washington State alum.Moos had praise for both coaches, but noted that Kent is “a TV announcer now doing a great job” working for the Pac-12 Network. But Moos said he would talk to Kent if he was interested.Rice just finished his fourth season at Boise State after a long tenure as an assistant at Gonzaga.”I know Leon is an alum. He’s going to get some looks and he deserves that,” Moos said. “He’s done a nice job at Boise State and I think he was a big part of the success at Gonzaga. I’m not going to go further than that.” Bone’s tenure in Pullman started well. With a core of solid players, including future NBA star Klay Thompson and Brock Motum, he enjoyed some early success. The Cougars were 16-15 his first season, then improved to 22-13 and reached the semifinals of the NIT his second season. They were 19-18 and reached the championship round of the CBI in his third season.But they were 13-19 in 2012-13, 4-14 in the Pac-12, and there was speculation all season that this might be a make-or-break year for Bone.Bone enjoyed plenty of success as head coach of Division II Seattle Pacific, and at Portland State. He was also an assistant at Washington.
PRETORIA, South Africa — Police photographs of a bare-chested Oscar Pistorius standing in his garage on blood-stained prosthetic legs and wearing shorts covered in blood, taken shortly after the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend, were shown to the court at his murder trial Friday.Prosecutors displayed two photos on TV monitors in the courtroom, with the first of the muscled double-amputee Olympic athlete standing facing a camera. There are blood stains up to the knees of his limbs and his shorts are also bloodied, but his naked chest appears to be clean of blood. A second photograph of Pistorius from the waist up and from the left side also shows blood on his shorts and parts of his body, with a tattoo visible on his back.The photographs were taken in Pistorius’ Pretoria home soon after the athlete killed Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year, a former policeman testified. Pistorius says he carried Steenkamp downstairs to try to save her after mistakenly shooting her in his bathroom.Former police Col. G.S. van Rensburg described the early part of the investigation after he arrived at the scene around 30 to 40 minutes after prosecutors say Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013. The prosecution says Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp in the upstairs bathroom after a loud argument and then tried to cover it up by saying he thought the 29-year-old model was a dangerous intruder.Pistorius, 27, maintains the killing was an accident and has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.Van Rensburg, the former commander at a police station close to Pistorius’ home, said he didn’t arrestPistorius immediately, but did warn him to remain at the house.”I told him I observed him as a suspect at that stage,” van Rensburg said. “I warned him of his rights … I requested him to remain present at all times at the scene.”Van Rensburg said Pistorius was earlier “very emotional,” and that the runner’s brother and sister, Carl and Aimee, and a lawyer later arrived at the house.A close-up photograph of the toilet inside the cubicle where Steenkamp was shot three times, once in the head, was also displayed. It showed an extensive blood smear on the rim, as well as thick blood streaks in the bowl, where the water was also dark with blood.Van Rensburg said he recognized the toilet door through which Pistorius shot as the “most valuable” piece of evidence, and that it was important to secure it, particularly since he had heard media were willing to pay up to $5,500 for a photo of it.The toilet door was placed in a plastic “body bag” and transported to a police station, where van Rensburg said he stored it in his office because it was too big to fit in an area normally reserved for evidence from crime scenes.The police investigation has been heavily criticized by Pistorius’ defense lawyer, Barry Roux.Roux particularly questioned the conduct of former investigating officer Hilton Botha, who was thrown off the case last year and resigned from the police force.Roux repeatedly asked van Rensburg what Botha was doing at the scene during different parts of the investigation. Botha admitted last year that he didn’t wear proper forensic clothing and shoe covers when he examined parts of the scene, and Pistorius’ team believes the police disturbed evidence and may have tampered with it.”You did not disturb anything in the bathroom? You did not see Mr. Hilton Botha disturb anything in the bathroom?” Roux asked van Rensburg.”Were you acutely aware that you should not disturb the scene? Did you have that awareness? And what was Mr. Botha doing?” Roux asked a little later.And again, Roux said: “Where was Mr. Botha now?” Van Rensburg said at points he did not know where Botha was.During the investigation in the bathroom, van Rensburg also said that he turned around at one point to see that the firearms expert was handling the gun Pistorius used to kill Steenkamp and had taken the magazine out of the weapon without using gloves.”I asked him, ‘What are you doing?'” van Rensburg testified. The officer realized his error, apologized, put the magazine back in the gun and laid it on the mat where it was on the floor. “I was very angry,” van Rensburg said.Van Rensburg also testified that one of Pistorius’ expensive watches was apparently stolen from the crime scene that night. About eight expensive watches were found in a blood-spattered box in Pistorius’ bedroom and van Rensburg said he warned fellow officers that the watches should be observed closely because they could be tempting to anyone moving through the crime scene.Pistorius’ sister asked if she could take one of the watches, leaving seven in place, he said. But van Rensburg said another went missing while he was out of the room, prompting him to order the frisking of all the police forensic experts on the scene, as well as a search of their bags and vehicles, and the entire house.
Kansas City Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar likely will miss at least the first two months of the season because of a sprained ligament in his right elbow.Hochevar, the first pick in the 2006 amateur draft, got hurt Monday while pitching to Matt Davidson, his final batter during a two-inning outing against the Chicago White Sox. The sprain was revealed in an MRI taken Tuesday. Manager Ned Yost said Wednesday that Hochevar won’t throw for two to three weeks and “probably the best-case scenario” would be a return at the end of May or early June.”His second-to-the-last pitch against the White Sox he felt a twinge in his elbow,” Yost said. “He ended up throwing a cutter to strike the guy out. He felt OK coming in, but the next day it was real stiff and sore.”Hochevar was 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA and two saves in 58 relief appearances last year. He is earning $5.21 million and is eligible for free agency after the season.He was sidelined from mid-June until mid-September in 2010 because of a sprained elbow and made only 17 starts and one relief appearance that year.”We were a little nervous that it could have been worse,” Yost said. “We think we got as good a report as we’d hoped for coming back. But, again, you really won’t know until three weeks to see exactly where we’re at.”Hochevar was a candidate for the final rotation slot this season. Yost said Wade Davis, Danny Duffy and rookie Yordano Ventura are “realistically fighting for that spot” and Hochevar would pitch from the bullpen when he returns.FOR HARVEY, MONEY FOR NOTHINGMatt Harvey may not throw a single pitch this season, but he’s already earned $60,000 in bonuses.The 2014 contract of the injured New York Mets star contains unusual provisions that reward him for 2013 accomplishments.Harvey has earned a $10,000 bonus for making last year’s All-Star team and $50,000 for finishing tied for fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting under the deal.Represented by agent Scott Boras, Harvey becomes eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season.”It’s always nice. I just found about it when they were doing all that stuff,” Harvey said Wednesday at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “I let Scott take care of all that stuff. I just play.”Harvey gets a salary of $546,625 while on the major league roster this year under the one-year deal announced Monday, and he is paid at an annual rate of $299,250 if on option to the minors.Recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery on Oct. 22, Harvey gets paid at the big league rate while on the disabled list or during a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment. He may not return to the mound for the Mets until 2015.Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts last year with 191 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings, and he had a salary of $498,750 in the major leagues.Harvey, who turns 25 on March 27, started the All-Star Game at Citi Field last July and became the youngest All-Star starting pitcher since the Mets’ Dwight Gooden in 1988.He was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament following his start against Detroit on Aug. 24.HUNTER DIDN’T KISS GATORTorii Hunter claims he didn’t actually kiss an alligator.The Detroit Tigers outfielder was featured in a viral photo from spring training that showed him puckering up next to the bounded mouth of a gator, but he told reporters Wednesday he was just “on the backside of it” and there was no kiss. Hunter says he’d never touched a gator before. The photo is available via a link from Hunter’s Twitter account.The picture was part of a morning meeting the Tigers have been holding daily at spring training under new manager Brad Ausmus. It may sound like a more formal start to each day, but it’s also a chance for the team to share a few laughs.Contributors: Justin McGuire, The Associated Press
Jared Allen left the AFC West to deliver as a dominant pass rusher for the Minnesota Vikings. As a free agent in 2014, the former Kansas City Chief just might be headed back to the division.Given Allen’s age (31) and decline in play, no team is likely to be willing to break the bank on him. But he’s the type of addition, with his relentless play and work ethic, who could put an established Super Bowl contender over the top. Enter the AFC champion Denver Broncos, who shot down rumors they were interested in trading for him before the 2013 midseason deadline in October. With the Broncos needing another complementary pass rusher for Von Miller, Allen at worst would be a valuable situational end, at best an experienced all-around starter.Allen is more limited at this stage of his career, and even though he has appeal for Dennis Allen and the sacks-starved Raiders, that team is better served spending its ample available money on young, rising players, such as Oakland free-agent end to be Lamarr Houston. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots are also on the short list of teams with some interest in Allen.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the Daytona 500 is considered a good thing for NASCAR. Its most popular driver the last 11 years winning its most prestigious event certainly should generate interest in the sport.But NASCAR Chairman Brian France says it’s not just the Earnhardt win that could help the sport. “The really great thing is how authentic he’s been throughout the week here as he’s doing (the media tour),” France said in a phone interview Wednesday. “That’s great. We’ll have to see (on the impact).”Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 for the second time, with the first coming in 2004 before the world of Twitter and in the infancy of social media. Now, Earnhardt is tweeting photos during his winner’s media tour and that has gotten an already enthusiastic Junior Nation looking forward to the rest of the season even more. The victory also all but guarantees him a spot in the Chase.“Anytime his fanbase gets revved up, that’s a good thing,” France said. “That’s good for him, and that’s good for us.”The victory nearly didn’t happen Sunday as the race was threatened by a seven-hour rain delay. NASCAR’s new track drying system was able to get the track ready in 90 minutes in what likely would have been at least a 150-minute process in past years. The race went green around 8:30 p.m. and ended at about 11:25 p.m., and it’s debatable whether NASCAR and Fox would have agreed to restart the race much later than 9.“I don’t know if we would have even been running on Monday with the weather the way it was,” France said. “It allowed us to get the race in and that’s a big deal for us. It worked out great.” With rain pushing the Daytona 500 to night for the second time in the last three years, it brings up the question of whether NASCAR would consider a move to night for that race.France says the sanctioning body already has considered it but Fox and the racetrack would also want to move it for it to happen.“We have considered it and for lots of reasons have not done that,” France said. “But it’s always a consideration. Of course, it’s not just our decision. Fox has to believe that’s the right time and all the rest.”
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — D.J. Newbill scored 23 points, Tim Frazier added 16 and Penn State held off a late rally by No. 22 Ohio State for a 65-63 victory Thursday on Senior Night.The Buckeyes (22-7, 9-7 Big Ten) had a chance to win at the end. Coming out of a timeout with 6.8 seconds left, Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s 3-pointer rimmed out. The Nittany Lions (14-14, 5-10) grabbed the rebound and time expired. Ohio State was led by LaQuinton Ross, who scored 19 points. Aaron Craft, plagued by foul trouble most of the game, added 10.Penn State swept the season series from Ohio State. The Nittany Lions upset the then-No. 23 Buckeyes 71-70 in overtime on Jan. 29 in Columbus, Ohio.Nittany Lions forward Donovan Jack made a turnaround jumper, was fouled and hit the free throw to give Penn State a 60-55 lead with 1:59 to go.Ross and Craft each made a pair of free throws, sandwiched around two by Frazier, to pull the Buckeyes to 62-59 with just more than a minute to go.Frazier pushed Penn State’s lead to five with 39.4 seconds left with a pair of free throws.After Ross made two more free throws, Shannon Scott stole the inbounds pass and passed to Trey McDonald for a layup that cut it to 64-63. Penn State missed two free throws on the ensuing possession, but Smith’s shot caromed off the rim and over the backboard, giving the Nittany Lions the ball back with less than 10 seconds left.Frazier was fouled and made one of two at the line, setting up Smith’s last-second attempt from 3-point range.Frazier, a senior point guard, was recognized before the game as part of Senior Night festivities. He is one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, given annually to a student-athlete with notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition. Frazier will leave Penn State as the school’s career leader in assists.
JOHANNESBURG — A look at some of the significant dates in Oscar Pistorius’ headline-grabbing life: Pistorius is born in Johannesburg with no fibula bones in his lower legs. His legs are amputated below the knee before he is a year old. Pistorius’ mother, Sheila, dies after complications from surgery when Pistorius is 15. A defining influence on Pistorius, she instilled in him that he was no different from anyone else. Having taken up track to rehabilitate from a rugby injury, Pistorius runs his first race on blades and clocks 11.72 seconds over 100 meters. The Paralympic record at the time was 12.20 seconds. Pistorius breaks the Paralympic 200 meters world record in his first appearance at a major meet at the Athens Paralympics. A day later, he wins gold in another world-record time in the 200 final. Pistorius is banned from competing against able-bodied athletes because of his blades. In May, the Blade Runner, as he becomes known, overturns the decision when he wins an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Crashes a speed boat on a dam in South Africa and has serious facial and other injuries. Later concedes he needed to make changes in his life after taking “unnecessary risks.” Pistorius is arrested after a female guest at a party at his house makes a complaint of assault against him. Pistorius later launches a counter-claim against the woman for falsely accusing him. Charges were not pursued. Pistorius becomes the first amputee to compete on the track at the Olympics. Anchors his team to a last-place finish in the 4×400 Olympic final. Still comes off the track smiling after realizing a career goal. Pistorius complains that Alan Oliveira’s blades are not within the rules after the Brazilian overtakes him in the final stages of the 200 final at the Paralympics, the first time Pistorius is beaten over 200 meters in Paralympic competition. Pistorius is accused of bad sportsmanship and later apologizes. Pistorius is arrested in the early hours of Valentine’s Day after the pre-dawn shooting death of model Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria house. Pistorius sobs in court as he is formally charged with murder at his bail hearing. Nike suspends its contract with Pistorius. Pistorius is granted bail of 1 million rand (then $113,000) and released pending his trial. Pistorius goes to his uncle’s house in an upmarket eastern suburb of Pretoria where the family says he will live. Pistorius is indicted on charges of murder and illegal possession of ammunition and his high court trial date is set. Prosecutors indicate they will seek a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole if Pistorius is convicted on the murder charge Pistorius is due to appear at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for the start of his murder trial.
CHICAGO — Chicago Curie Metropolitan High School’s basketball team, ranked among the best in the nation, has forfeited this year’s games because several players were academically ineligible to compete, public schools officials announced Friday.Chicago Public Schools said seven players on Curie’s 24-1 varsity team were ineligible from the start of the 2013-14 season. Student athletes in the district must maintain a 2.0 GPA to participate in sports, or have an individual study plan in place to help them improve academically. | District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says Curie’s head coach Michael Oliver has been suspended.”As adults, educators and mentors, it is our responsibility to teach our students right from wrong and, unfortunately, the adults let these student athletes down by failing to do that and comply with CPS policies,” Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.Oliver told the Chicago Tribune that he was not privy to what CPS uncovered. “I don’t even know who they’re investigating,” he was quoted as saying.CPS did not disclose the names of the ineligible players.In addition to regular season games, Curie will forfeit this year’s Chicago high school championship, earned with a win over Whitney Young High School. The title will remain vacant.Chicago Public Schools revealed it was investigating Curie hours before the school, ranked No. 1 in basketball in Illinois and No. 2 in the country, competed against Young for the city title on Feb. 21. The game, which Curie won in four overtimes, drew national attention because two players, Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander, are considered by some to be the best in the nation. Alexander has already committed to Kansas.Curie may still be allowed to compete for a state championship. That’s because the Illinois High School Association has different requirements for eligibility. Students must pass five courses and achieve a minimum of 2.5 credits at the time of the tournament, district officials said.IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a statement that the organization is still reviewing the district’s report on the investigation, and it will be in a position to make a decision by Monday.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin was in the right place at the right time Thursday night — out front and ahead of the big crash.Hamlin led the lead pack across the finish line to win the second Budweiser Duel and avoid the wild multicar crash that erupted behind him and sent Clint Bowyer’s car flipping through the air. The wreck occurred when Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel on the final lap and Jamie McMurray tagged him from behind coming out of Turn 4, sending both drivers crashing into the outside wall and igniting a huge crash. Bowyer got the worst of it, getting knocked across the track and flipping his car into the frontstretch grass. Also involved were Michael Waltrip, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards and David Ragan.“I feel terrible,” Johnson said. “Terrible to tear up that many racecars and see the 15 (Bowyer) flip. I feel terrible and want to apolgize to everyone. I tried to get up out of the way, I had my hand out the window, but the last lap coming to the checkered, there is so much going on right there, so much energy in the pack, I knew we were going to get run over if we ran out. Thankfully everyone is all right and I certainly feel bad for all the torn-up racecars.”Hamlin, meanwhile, won the race, followed by Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Trevor Bayne and rookie Kyle Larson.Johnson was challenging Gordon for second when McMurray hit him fron behind, starting the big crash. It was the third big crash during Speedweeks, following a big one in the Sprint Unlimited and another in practice on Wednesday. Bowyer was the second driver to get airborne, following Parker Kligerman’s flip and roll on Wednesday.“He had his hand out the window. I think he lost his momentum and Jamie just clipped him there,” Michael Waltrip said of the crash. “I had a car right in front of me and I moved up a little bit and tapped another car. I’m the owner of that 15 car and I thought I saw him flipping and he landed on his wheels and we unfortunately popped the inside wall.”Hamlin won his second straight race and third straight dating back to last year. Coming off a serious back injury, Hamlin won the season finale last year and then the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday. His Joe Gibbs Racing team also swept the two qualifying races, with Matt Kenseth winning the first one, setting the two teammates up as the favorites to win Sunday’s Daytona 500.“We won a NASCAR golf tournament this morning so we are really undefeated,” he said. “Everything has been going great. Once that snowball starts to roll it’s hard to stop it and right now we are just on a heck of a run.”Hamlin took the lead after a series of green-flag pit stops on Lap 37 and led a lead pack that included Kurt Busch, Gordon and Johnson.Brad Keselowski took control of the race early and led 36 laps before getting nabbed for speeding on pit road during the green-flag pit stop on Lap 37. After serving a pass-thru penalty, Keselowski then had a flat tire and had to pit again.Truex started on the pole, but Keselowski took the lead on Lap 2 and paced the single-file draft with Ford teammate Carl Edwards tucked onto his bumper. The lead pack pulled away into a 10-car draft and ran single file for the first 36 laps of the race. The top seven positions did not change until the leaders all pitted on Lap 37.After the pit stops, Hamlin took control with Gordon and Busch riding behind them. After Johnson’s move, Gordon and Busch were able to avoid the melee and follow Hamlin across the finish line.“It was a pretty calm race for us,” Gordon said. “We got into a good position and just kept seeing everybody back up and back up to get that big run when the white flag came out. We had a good run as well and they split up behind us and then it ws just chaos until the end.”Hamlin is now a heavy favorite to win the Daytona 500, though no driver has ever swept all three events during Speedweeks. Hamlin, though, is confident.“Just keep doing whatt we’re doing. We’re on a roll obviously. We executed the race today great,” Hamlin said. “… The goal was just to get ourselves in position in the top 10 within a second of those guys when they pitted so I could rely on our pit crew to do the rest. The pit crew got us out there in the lead. …“I just kinda watched and learned what happened in the first Duel with the 20 (Kenseth). He decided to keep the high line going even on the white-flag lap. I felt like protecting the bottom early, with a lap to go, was better for us. It was a good executed race.” Team owner Joe Gibbs likes what he sees from his organization, especially Hamlin’s team.“Last year was so hard on us and (winning at) Homestead was a huge deal for us,” Gibbs said. “That was a big win and gave everygody their confidence going into the offseason. Denny has worked extremely hard and I think we’re all hungry.””We’re starving,” Hamlin added.