Stage lengths altered; halfway rule back
NASCAR announced Tuesday it is changing the stage lengths for 16 Cup races this season, including both at Richmond Raceway. In addition, a race will be ruled official if it reaches the halfway point, a return to its historical standard.
Under the new rules, the two stages at Richmond will end at Lap 80 and Lap 235; last year, the race stages ended at Lap 100 and Lap 200. The length of the two races will remain 400 laps.
Other races where the stage lengths will change include the Daytona 500 (Lap 65/Lap 130/Lap 200); Talladega (60/120/188); Atlanta (105/210/325); Texas (105/210/334); Darlington (115/230/367); Phoenix (75/190/312); New Hampshire (75/185/301) and Dover (75/237/400); and the doubleheader weekend at Pocono (25/77/130 and 30/85/140).
When stages were introduced in 2017, NASCAR announced a race must complete the second stage to be considered official.
Among other changes announced Tuesday:
Richmond Raceway (April 18) will be part of the Triple Truck Challenge, a bonus program that also includes races at Dover (May 1) and Charlotte (May 15). In addition, the entry deadline restriction that created headaches last season when retired driver Greg Biffle
Gaunt Brothers Racing signs Suarez
Daniel Suarez landed a job two weeks before the NASCAR season begins when Gaunt Brothers Racing signed the Mexican driver for the No. 96 Toyota in the Cup Series.
Suarez learned during the final weekend of last season in November that Stewart-Haas Racing was letting him go after one season. Suarez also spent two seasons racing Cup for Joe Gibbs Racing before that team released him.
Suarez won the 2016 Xfinity Series championship driving a Toyota for Gibbs but has consistently been knocked out of rides because his team needs the seat for another driver.
The signing with Gaunt Brothers puts Suarez back with Toyota, which had been heavily involved in developing the 28-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, before he spent last season in a Ford for Stewart-Haas.
Gaunt Brothers Racing, which first entered the Cup Series in 2017, hired Dave Winston from Richard Childress Racing to be Suarezâs crew chief. Winston was vehicle performance group engineer at RCR, but has been a crew chief before for Alex Bowman in 2014 and Michael McDowell in 2016.
Penguins give Pettersson extension
Marcus Pettersson is sticking with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 23-year-old defenseman agreed to a five-year contract extension that runs through the 2024-25 season. The deal carries an average annual value of just over $4 million.
Pittsburgh acquired Pettersson in a December 2018 trade that sent forward Daniel Sprong to Anaheim. Pettersson has become one of the steadiest players on the Penguinsâ blue line over the last 13 months. He has one goal and 14 assists in 50 games this season.
Gauff included on U.S. Fed Cup team
Teenager Coco Gauff was included in the U.S. Fed Cup team for the first time on Tuesday, joining the likes of Serena Williams for a qualifying series against Latvia next week.
Gauff, 15, is set to become the second youngest American to play in the competition behind Jennifer Capriati, who made her debut at 14 in 1990.
Gauff is expected to enter the top 50 in the rankings for the first time after her run to the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Australian Open semifinalist Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske and doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands were also included in the roster announced by the U.S. Tennis Association.
The Americans will play Latvia on indoor hard courts in Everett, Wash., on Feb. 7-8.
Texans add GM to coachâs title
The Houston Texans added general manager to Bill OâBrienâs title, a role the coach has been filling since the firing of Brian Gaine in June.
The Texans won the AFC South title for the second straight season and the fourth time in five years. They beat Buffalo in the AFC playoffsâ first round and built a 24-0 lead against Kansas City in the second round before the Chiefs rallied for a 51-31 victory.
The Carolina Panthers are bringing back Chase Blackburn as their special teams coordinator. Blackburn spent the last two seasons in the same role under former head coach Ron Rivera,
The Denver Broncos hired veteran NFL assistant Mike Shula as their quarterbacks coach. Shula will shepherd QB Drew Lock
Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell
Atlanta Dream two-time WNBA scoring champion Angel McCoughtry
Ballon dâOr winner Ada Hegerbergâs season was ended by a right knee injury that needs surgery. European champion Lyon said