CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has never won a Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he's put himself in good position to do it this weekend.
Hamlin broke the track record in winning the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, recording a lap of 195.624 mph. He was one of eight drivers to top the previous record of 193.708 set last October by Greg Biffle.
Hamlin will start alongside Kurt Busch on the front row, followed by Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer.
It is Hamlin's 14th career pole.
NEW YORK (AP) — Miami's LeBron James was a unanimous pick for the All-NBA team. James received all 119 votes for the first team from a panel of sports writer and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is also a first-teamer, marking his record-tying 11th first-team selection. Joining James and Bryant on the first team are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, San Antonio center Tim Duncan and Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Bryant tied Utah Hall of Famer Karl Malone with his 11th first-team nod.
NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony led the second team, joined by guards Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, center Marc Gasol (gah-SOHL') and forward Blake Griffin.
The third team was Houston's James Harden, Miami's Dwyane (dwayn) Wade, Lakers center Dwight Howard and forwards Paul George of Indiana and David Lee of Golden State.
UNDATED (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks had a wonderful regular season, finishing first overall after setting an NHL record by going their first 24 games without a regulation loss. None of that will mean much if they don't win their next three games.
The top-seeded Blackhawks trail No. 7 Detroit 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals after Jimmy Howard turned back 28 shots in the Red Wings' 2-0 win over Chicago. Howard made half of his saves in the first period, but Corey Crawford was just as stingy until Jakub Kindl (YAH'-kuhb KIN'-dul) beat him midway through the game.
Howard needed to stop just six shots in the third period despite facing two power plays, one coming with 4:43 remaining and Detroit clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Daniel Cleary iced the victory by scoring into an empty net with 39 seconds remaining.
The Red Wings can advance to the conference finals by winning Saturday in Chicago, where the Blackhawks will try to end their season-worst three-game losing streak.
There was also a shutout in Los Angeles as Jonathan Quick handled 24 shots to lead the Kings past San Jose 3-0. The Kings own a three-games-to-two lead in the Western Conference semifinals following Quick's sixth shutout since the last year's playoffs.
Neither team scored until Anze Kopitar (AHN'-zhay KOH'-pih-tahr) beat Antti Niemi (AN'-tee nee-EH'-mee) with 1:52 left in the second period. Sergei Voynov added an early third-period tally before Jeff Carter poked in an empty-netter.
Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks, who host Game 6 on Saturday.
The Boston Bruins were unable to complete a four-game sweep of the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.
New York is still alive after Chris Kreider (KRY'-dur) scored at 7:03 of overtime to lift the Blueshirts past the Bruins 4-3. The Rangers erased 2-0 and 3-2 deficits before Kreider notched his first goal of the postseason.
The Bruins were looking pretty good after Nathan Horton and Torey Krug (kroog) scored 3:02 apart to give them a two-goal lead at the 7:49 mark of the second period. Derek Stepan (STEP'-ahn) eventually tied it 75 seconds into the third period and set up Brian Boyle's goal with 10 minutes left in regulation.
Henrik Lundqvist turned back 37 shots for the Rangers, who head to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.
VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Two-time defending champion Luke Donald and Ryder Cup teammate Ian Poulter missed the cut Friday at the BMW PGA Championship.
Donald (72) was 6 over overall after two rounds in the cold and rain at Wentworth.
Donald's round of 78 Thursday was Donald's worst at Wentworth by four shots.
Poulter (76) is planning to make the most of his free weekend, going to the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday and the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
Francesco Molinari (68) is the clubhouse leader with a 138 total, but overnight leader James Kingston has yet to start his second round.
Thousands of soccer fans were treated to an exhibition match between two of the world's most successful teams. The Busch Stadium field was transformed into a pitch for last night's "friendly" which was enjoyed by a sold out crowd.
People spent a lot of time standing in lines for souvenirs or the chance to pose with the Europe league trophy won earlier this month by Chelsea.
They paid to see the stars and the stars didn't disappoint: Oscar, Dzeko, Tevez, Torres. English Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City battled at Busch Stadium to the delight of local and visiting soccer fans alike.
Chelsea built a 3-0 lead, but Manchester City answered with four of their own. The final was 4-3, but fans here feel like they were the winners.
The two teams play another friendly match Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia will have surgery on his left shoulder this week and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
The Cardinals announced Wednesday that the left-hander will have surgery to repair tears in his rotator cuff and labrum. Team doctor George Paletta will perform the operation on Friday in St. Louis.
Garcia is 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in nine starts this year. He was put on the disabled list Sunday after feeling pain that had increased over the course of three starts.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny says it wasn't surprising news to find out Garcia needed surgery. Matheny said Garcia could get his shoulder cleaned up and be healthy for spring training.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tyler Lyons pitched seven solid innings in his major league debut on the same day St. Louis lost Jaime Garcia for the season, and the Cardinals beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 on Wednesday night.
Lyons, who was promoted from Triple-A Memphis after Garcia went on the disabled list, allowed one run and four hits. The 25-year-old left-hander was a ninth-round draft pick in 2010 out of Oklahoma State.
The Cardinals announced before that game that Garcia will have season-ending shoulder surgery this week. The lefty went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in nine starts this year, helping St. Louis bolt to the majors' best record at 30-16.
MIAMI (AP) — It was an MVP performance by the NBA's top player.
LeBron James hit a layup as time expired in overtime to lift the Miami Heat past the Indiana Pacers 103-102 in Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. The Heat led 101-99 until Paul George hit three free throws with 2.2 remaining in overtime. James bailed out the Heat by driving down the left side of the lane and providing the game's 17th and final lead change.
James finished with his ninth postseason triple-double, delivering 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Heat also received solid production from Chris Anderson, who came off the bench and added 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting. Dwyane (dwayn) Wade chipped in 19 points, six rebounds and five assists before fouling out.
The Pacers' starting forwards accounted for 72 points. George was high man for the Pacers with 27 points, David West finished with 26 and Roy Hibbert had 19 and nine rebounds.
Game 2 is Friday at Miami.
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and U.S. Golf Association said Rule 14-1b will take effect in 2016.
"We recognize this has been a divisive issue, but after thorough consideration, we remain convinced that this is the right decision for golf," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.
The new rule does not ban the long putters, only the way they commonly are used. Golfers no longer will be able to anchor the club against their bodies to create the effect of a hinge. Masters champion Adam Scott used a long putter he pressed against his chest. British Open champion Ernie Els and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson used a belly putter, as did Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship.
"We strongly believe that this rule is for the betterment of the game," USGA President Glen Nager said. "Rule 14-1b protects one of the important challenges in the game - the free swing of the entire club."
The announcement followed six months of contentious debate, and it might not be over.
The next step is for the PGA Tour to follow the new rule or decide to establish its own condition of competition that would allow players to anchor the long putters. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in February the USGA and R&A would be "making a mistake" to adopt the rule, though he also has stressed the importance of golf playing under one set of rules.
"I think it's really important that the PGA Tour - and all the professional tours - continue to follow one set of rules," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "We have gotten very positive feedback from the tours around the world saying that they like one set of rules, they like the R&A and USGA governing those. So if there was some type of schism, we don't think that would be good for golf.
"And we are doing what we think is right for the long-term benefit of the game for all golfers, and we just can't write them for one group of elite players."
The tour said in a statement it would consult with its Player Advisory Council and policy board to determine "whether various provisions of Rule 14-1b will be implemented in our competitions, and if so, examine the process for implementation."
PGA of America President Ted Bishop, who had some of the sharpest comments over the last few months, also said his group would discuss the new rule - and confer with the PGA Tour - before deciding how to proceed.
"We are disappointed with this outcome," Bishop said. "As we have said publicly and repeatedly during the comment period, we do not believe 14-1b is in the best interest of recreational golfers and we are concerned about the negative impact it may have on both the enjoyment and growth of the game."
Some forms of anchoring have been around at least 40 years, and old photographs suggest it has been used even longer. It wasn't until after Bradley became the first major champion to use a belly putter that the USGA and R&A said it would take a new look at the putting style.
"It can never be too late to do the right thing," Nager said.
Those in favor of anchored putting argued that none of the top 20 players in the PGA Tour's most reliable putting statistic used a long putter, and if it was such an advantage, why wasn't everyone using it?
"Intentionally securing one end of the club against the body, and creating a point of physical attachment around which the club is swung, is a substantial departure from that traditional free swing," Nager said. "Anchoring creates potential advantages, such as making the stroke simpler and more repeatable, restricting the movement and rotation of the hands, arms and clubface, creating a fixed pivot point, and creating extra support and stability that may diminish the effects of nerves and pressure."
The governing bodies announced the proposed rule on Nov. 28, even though they had no data to show an advantage. What concerned them more was a spike in usage on the PGA Tour, more junior golfers using the long putters and comments from instructors that it was a better way to putt. There was concern the conventional putter would become obsolete over time.
The purpose of the new rule was simply to define what a putting stroke should be.
"The playing rules are not based on statistical studies," Nager said. "They are based on judgments that define the game and its intended challenge. One of those challenges is to control the entire club, and anchoring alters that challenge."
The topic was so sensitive that the USGA and R&A allowed for a 90-day comment period, an unprecedented move for the groups that set the rules of golf. The USGA said about 2,200 people offered feedback through its website, while the R&A said it had about 450 people from 17 countries go through its website.
Among those who spoke in favor of the ban were Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker.
"I've always felt that in golf you should have to swing the club, control your nerves and swing all 14 clubs, not just 13," Woods said Monday.
Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson have used the long putter as long as they have been on the PGA Tour. Scott switched to the broom-handle putter only in 2011, and he began contending in majors for the first time - tied for third in 2011 Masters, runner-up at the 2012 British Open, his first major victory in the Masters last month.
"It was inevitable that big tournaments would be won with this equipment because these are the best players in the world, and they practice thousands of hours," Scott said after winning the Masters. "They are going to get good with whatever they are using."
It was Clark's dignified speech to a players-only meeting - with Davis from the USGA in the room - that helped sway the tour's opinion to oppose the ban.
Davis and Dawson said their research indicated the opposition to the new rule was mainly in America. The European Tour and other tours around the world all backed the ban.
Players can still use the putter, but it would have to be held away from the body to allow free swing. Mark Newell, head of the USGA's rules committee, said the rule would be enforced like so many others in golf - players would have to call the penalty on themselves.
The rookie right-hander had just walked his second batter of the inning, with two outs, on his 107th pitch. The Padres scored twice to take the lead, sticking Miller with the loss in a 4-2 defeat.
"He hit some real good spots," Matheny said. "But it was one of those games where they fouled off a lot of pitches to get his pitch count up. It was too high to really get himself out of trouble late in the game."
Jason Marquis combined with four relievers on a four-hitter to win his fifth straight start and Will Venable homered to lead the San Padres.
Marquis (6-2) has won five consecutive starts for the first time since 2007 with the Chicago Cubs. He allowed two runs, one earned, on three hits in six innings while striking out three and walking four.
Chris Denorfia went 3 for 3 with an RBI for the Padres, who have won three straight and five of seven. Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Venable homered into the Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Deck atop the right-field fence leading off the seventh, his seventh. It came on the second pitch from Mitchell Boggs, who just returned from a demotion to Triple-A Memphis.
Miller (5-3) allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings, struck out five and walked three.
"It was more just missing my spots and them not swinging," Miller said. "When you face a good-hitting offense, it's not going to be easy to throw it and have them swing at it every single time. It's something I have to realize just to get the ball around the zone."
The Padres scored two runs in the sixth on three walks, one hit and a hit batter.
After Miller was pulled, Denorfia greeted Fernando Salas with an RBI single. John Baker walked to load the bases and Salas hit pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman with a pitch to bring in another run.
"It seems like 20 pitches every single inning, every single outing, back-to-back starts," Miller said. "Throwing so many pitches in back-to-back games is not good. It accumulates with a little bit of everything. My curveball wasn't really good tonight. Neither was my changeup. My fastball wasn't really there. Multiple things were off."
Miller entered with a 1.40 ERA, tied with Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the lowest in the majors. It went up to 1.74. Two starts earlier, Miller allowed a single to start the game and then retired the next 27 batters in a 3-0 home win against Colorado.
Miller's scoreless streak of 14 2-3 innings ended in the first when Everth Cabrera hit a leadoff single and scored on Chase Headley's one-out single.
The Cardinals tied it in the second when Headley, San Diego's Gold Glove third baseman, booted Miller's bases-loaded grounder for an error, allowing Yadier Molina to score. The Cardinals added a run in the third when Carlos Beltran hit a leadoff double, advanced on Matt Holliday's single and scored on Allen Craig's double-play grounder.
San Diego had a prime opportunity to score in its half when Cabrera hit a leadoff triple to right-center. But he was stranded when Miller struck out Will Venable and Headley before Carlos Quentin popped up.
NOTES: Cardinals 3B David Freese was a late scratch due to getting three stitches in the base of his right thumb after getting spiked by Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki while tagging him out during a rundown Sunday. Freese was replaced by Ty Wigginton, who grew up in suburban Chula Vista. ... Marquis has a 2.27 ERA during his five-game winning streak. ... The series continues Tuesday night when St. Louis RHP Adam Wainwright (5-3, 2.51 ERA) faces RHP Edinson Volquez (3-4, 5.55).