The Nextel Cup Sony HD 500 at California Speedway, by Kyle Busch (above), who became the youngest driver ever to win a race in NASCAR's top series. At 20 years and 125 days, Busch was four days younger than Donald Thomas was when he won a race in Atlanta in 1952. Though he's mathematically eliminated from the Chase for the Nextel Cup (the 10-man field will be set after this Saturday's race), Busch, whose older brother Kurt is the reigning series champ, has had a strong rookie season. He won the pole in his second race and twice finished second. "It's unbelievable," said Busch, who held off five-time winner Greg Biffle on a restart with two laps to go. "We should have been here at least five times this year, but we haven't been able to close the deal."
To his home in Texas, disgraced Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. The slugger has struggled since coming back from a 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids (SI, Aug. 8). Palmeiro (left) is hitting .077 since his return, and last week he resorted to plugging his ears in an attempt to block out the negative reception he's been getting from fans outside Baltimore. He has also been hampered by injuries to his left ankle and right knee, and on Monday the team decided to send him home to recuperate. No timetable was set for his return, but interim manager Sam Perlozzo said he expects Palmeiro to play again this year. "Everything just kind of crumbled, unexpectedly really," Palmeiro said. "I never expected that anything would happen to me, not at this stage of my career anyway."
As managing general partner of the Devil Rays, part owner Vince Naimoli. Under a tentative agreement reached last week, Naimoli will most likely cede control of the team to Stuart Sternberg, a New York investor who bought 48% of the franchise last year for $60 million. Sternberg was to take over in January 2007, but he has reportedly offered a multimillion-dollar buyout to get Naimoli--who owns a 15% stake but was selected by his partners to run the team--to leave early. Naimoli was hailed by the Tampa community when he led a group that won the expansion franchise in 1995, but a decade of losing (never won more than 70 games), parsimoniousness in the area of player personnel (the Rays have the lowest payroll in the majors) and run-ins with fans and local media have made him persona non grata in Tampa. A Bradenton Herald headline last week read rejoice, fans: naimoli on his way out of town.
Romania's powerhouse women's gymnastics team, after two members sneaked out of training camp in Bucharest to attend a party. The country's gymnastics federation said Catalina Ponor (above), 18, who won three gold medals at the Athens Olympics, and Floarea Leonida, 18, violated their contracts by stepping out to celebrate the birthday of a member of the men's gymnastics team on Aug. 27. The federation asked that team members continue their training for the national championships in October at their own clubs. (With the team scattered, coach Octavian Belu and assistant Mariana Bitang have asked to have their contracts canceled.) Said Ponor, who denied reports that she had been drinking at the party, "I hope I will prove that it's possible to perform well even without the tough restrictions at the training camp."
From the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays' loss to the Fort Myers Miracle on Aug. 25, stadium sound engineer James O'Brien. After a disputed foul-ball call by plate umpire Thomas Clarke in the first game of a doubleheader went against Dunedin, O'Brien twice played a recording of fans booing and grumbling over the stadium loudspeaker. Clarke, a veteran minor league ump, pointed to O'Brien's booth and gave him the thumb. "It's not something I wanted to do," said Clarke, "but I had reached the boiling point." O'Brien paid a $25 fine and was back at his post for the second game of the doubleheader.
By coach Urban Meyer, the plaster alligator head the Florida football team rubs for good luck before games. In April, a few months after he was hired, Meyer removed the gator head from the spot outside the Gators' locker room that it has occupied since 1992, saying that the team, which went a disappointing 7-5 last year, had to earn it back. (He also booted the team from the locker room during the off-season and banned players from wearing clothing with the Gators logo during summer workouts.) Meyer refused to divulge where the gator had been hidden as the team prepared for last Saturday's season opener at home against Wyoming, which the Gators won 32-14; on the morning of the game he surprised his players by putting it back in its rightful spot. "You don't realize how special it is until it's gone," center Mike Degory said.
DARRELL INGHAM/GETTY IMAGES (BUSCH)
ADRIAN WYLD/CP/AP (PALMEIRO)
ODD ANDERSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (PONOR)