Ryan Newman set a rookie record with his series-leading sixth pole of the season, taking the top spot yesterday at Phoenix International Raceway.

The 24-year-old Newman knocked Dale Earnhardt Jr. off the pole with a lap around the one-mile oval at 132.655 mph. John Andretti went 132.597 to take the outside of the front row for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500.

The time difference between Newman's Penske Racing South Ford and the Petty Enterprises Dodge of Andretti was just 0.014 seconds. But it was enough to move Newman out of a tie with the late Davey Allison for the most poles by a first-year Winston Cup driver. Allison set the mark in 1987.

"I was worried about John," Newman said. "He was very fast in practice, and I knew he was going out after me."

Newman is fourth in points and leads the series with 21 top-10 finishes. His third pole in the last four races clinched the season qualifying award and gave him seven for his brief career.


Baker Owes Big Money

Former San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker owes more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties due to some bad investments he made in the early 1980s.

Baker's Oakland-based tax attorney, Karen Hawkins, told the Associated Press that Baker invested in four tax shelters on the advice of his brother. The tax write-offs he received from the shelters were disallowed in 1981 and 1982. The tax liabilities are less than $400,000, but with interest over the years what he owes has reached more than $1 million, she said without giving an exact figure. . . .

Dan Wilson (.295, 6 homers, 44 RBI) agreed to a two-year, $7 million contract to stay with the Seattle Mariners rather than test the free agent market. . . .

Right-handed pitcher Josh Towers agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and was invited to spring training. Towers, 25, went 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA in five games with the Baltimore Orioles before being optioned to Class AAA Rochester on May 2.


Red Wings in Town

Calling them "ruffians skating in the same direction," President Bush praised the Detroit Red Wings for their championship play and community service.

In an East Room ceremony filled with good-natured ribbing, Bush said athletes should follow the Red Wings' lead and be good examples for children who adore them.

"See, it's one thing to be the champion on the ice, it's another thing to be a champion living your lives," the president said.


AU Upsets Navy in OT

Freshman Natalie Rodovsky scored 11 minutes into overtime as American handed Navy its first loss of the women's soccer season, 2-1, in the Patriot League semifinals in West Point, N.Y.

The Midshipmen (16-1-4) were the last undefeated team in the country. In Sunday's final, the Eagles (9-8-2) will play Colgate, which upset Army, 2-1. Despite its record, Navy is not assured of an at-large berth in the 64-team NCAA tournament because of a weak schedule. Pairings will be announced Monday. . . .

Freshman Danielle MacDonald (Paul VI Catholic) scored her first career goal in the 75th minute to lead George Mason to a 1-0 victory over Hofstra in a Colonial Athletic Association semifinal in Virginia Beach. In Sunday's final, the Patriots (10-10) will play James Madison (11-7-3) for their first league title since 1993. . . .

The fourth-ranked Maryland field hockey team overcame a two-goal halftime deficit to defeat North Carolina, 3-2, in an ACC tournament semifinal in Durham, N.C. The Terrapins (16-3) got second-half goals from seniors Carissa Messimer and Izzy Palmer and an overtime tally from freshman Jackie Ciconte. Maryland will play top-seeded Wake Forest (15-2) in Sunday's final. . . .

Michael McNeely resigned as athletic director at Indiana, amid reports of financial problems in the department. Terry Clapacs, vice president for administration at Indiana, will be the interim athletic director. . . .

North Carolina State lost starting forward Ilian Evtimov, one of the top freshmen in ACC men's basketball last year, for the season when he tore knee ligaments in an 86-61 exhibition victory over One World All-Stars in Raleigh, N.C.


V. Williams Advances

Second-seeded Venus Williams saved 10 of 13 break points and beat No. 6 Monica Seles, 7-5, 6-4, in the quarterfinals of the Home Depot Championships in Los Angeles.

Williams will play No. 5 Kim Clijsters on Sunday in the semifinals of the season-ending tournament that determines the WTA Tour's final rankings. Clijsters beat No. 4 Justine Henin, 6-2, 6-1.