Sports in Brief

Head Injuries End Irvan's Career

Ernie Irvan, recovering from a second head injury in five years, retired yesterday after 13 seasons on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.

"This was a tough decision to make, but I was able to make it on my own terms, and now I can focus on my immediate future," said Irvan, who nearly died from a head injury five years ago and still is recovering from a less serious one two weeks ago. "Physically, I feel good, but I believe this is the right decision."

The 40-year-old Californian said doctors who have been treating him since his latest crash, Aug. 20 at Michigan Speedway, did not tell him he had to retire. He said he made the decision Thursday.

"They said another accident like the one I had earlier probably would be detrimental to me living a wholesome life," Irvan said, his voice cracking with emotion as he sat with his wife and two children. "It's something that brings tears to my eyes to know I'm never going to drive a Winston Cup car again." . . .

Kenny Irwin, who didn't live up to expectations in one of the top Winston Cup cars, shockingly won the pole in record-setting fashion in qualifying for Sunday's Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C.

Irwin, fired last month from the Robert Yates Racing Ford team but allowed to finish the season, got his second pole of the year and third of his career with a run of 170.970 mph. . . .

Ward Burton needed the fastest Darlington lap ever in a Busch Grand National car to nose out Mark Martin to take the pole for the Dura-Lube 200. Martin was calmly up front with a near-record run of 166.236 mph--he shut the engine down after the first of two laps--before Burton, the 48th of 55 entries, routed the field with a lap of 167.676 mph. . . .

An old face will make a new start next year in NASCAR when A.J. Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and winner of the 1972 Daytona 500, returns to Winston Cup racing as a car owner.

Track and Field

On Course for Jackpot

World champions Wilson Kipketer and Gabriela Szabo maintained their perfect records in the Golden League competition at the Van Damme meet in Brussels, putting them one victory away from sharing the $1 million jackpot.

Kipketer of Denmark ran the season's best time in the 800 meters, clocking 1 minute 42.27 seconds and beating Hezekiel Sepeng by five meters. Kipketer was within world record pace after 400 meters, but fell 1.16 seconds short. Sepeng set a South African record of 1:42.69.

Morocco's Zahra Ouaziz tried to shake off Szabo for much of the women's 3,000-meter race, but the Romanian bided her time and waited to outkick her.

Szabo finished in 8:25.82, her second-fastest time this year.

The two champions have won all six Golden League meets, and if they continue their streak through Tuesday's ISTAF Berlin meet, they will end up with $500,000 each as the overall jackpot would be sliced in half.

Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj ran the second-fastest men's 3,000 in history, 7:23.09, only 2.42 seconds off Kenyan Daniel Komen's record.

Basketball

Barkley Agrees to Pact

Free agent forward Charles Barkley agreed to terms with the Houston Rockets, keeping the team's all-star trio intact for another season.

Terms weren't disclosed. The Houston Chronicle reported that the 36-year-old Barkley would sign a one-year, $9 million contract.

Barkley returns to a team led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Scottie Pippen. The Rockets also acquired No. 2 draft pick Steve Francis from the Vancouver Grizzlies. . . .

Former New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari was chosen as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. Calipari will join assistants Maurice Cheeks, John Kuester and Randy Ayers under Coach Larry Brown.

Golf

Doyle Grabs Lead

Allen Doyle fired a 9-under-par 63 to take a one-shot lead over Gil Morgan in the opening round of the TD Waterhouse Senior PGA Championship in Kansas City, Mo.

Doyle birdied the first four holes. His 63 was a record for the new Tiffany Greens Golf Club, which is playing host to the championship for the first time. . . .

First-round leader Brandt Jobe shot a 1-under-par 70 and was tied with Charles Raulerson, who had a 68, halfway through the $2.5 million Air Canada Championship at the suburban Vancouver Northview Golf and Country Club course. Carlos Franco shot his second 67 and was alone in third. . . .

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, New Zealand's Michael Campbell and Lee Westwood of Britain shared the lead after two rounds of the European Masters in Crans-Sur-Sierre, Switzerland.

Bjorn and Campbell each fired 5-under-par 66s in the second round, and Westwood, a member of the European Ryder Cup team, shot his second straight 69.

Soccer

A Winning Debut

In his collegiate debut, American freshman forward Nino Marcantonio (Churchill), the 1998 All-Met boys soccer player of the year, had an assist and scored the game-winning goal in the second half of the Eagles' 2-1 victory over Gonzaga at the Coca-Cola Classic in Charlottesville.

CAPTION: Ernie Irvan says retiring is the "right decision" after 13 Winston Cup seasons. He holds his son, Jerrett.