Although Jeremy Mayfield got his first pole in more than two years yesterday, he doesn't figure the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway aces from Dale Earnhardt Inc. should be too worried.

"That doesn't change anything," Mayfield said of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip. "We beat them in qualifying, but they don't ever qualify that well."

Mayfield qualified his Dodge at 186.489 mph. Earnhardt Jr., who has won the last three races on the 2.66-mile oval, was 13th-fastest. Waltrip will start Sunday's Aaron's 499 from the 16th spot in a field of 43.

They have combined for seven victories in the last seven races at Talladega and Daytona International Speedway -- the tracks where NASCAR requires carburetor restrictor plates.

"It's no secret, though, that those two are going to beat the ones to beat," Mayfield said after his seventh career pole. "It will be tough to beat those DEI cars, but I think we have definitely closed the gap."

Mayfield, who joined Ray Evernham's team at the start of 2002, got his first pole since October 2000 at Rockingham. . . .

Mark Webber became the first Jaguar driver to turn a fastest lap in Formula One qualifying, finishing ahead of Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.


Levens to Giants

By agreeing to terms with running back Dorsey Levens, the New York Giants moved closer to shedding Ron Dayne. Levens, who was with Philadelphia last year, agreed on a three-year contract, and agent Hadley Engelhard said the 33-year-old running back planned to visit the Giants on Monday and sign the contract.

The Giants also are close to reaching agreement with veteran place kicker Mike Hollis, who played with Buffalo last season after a long career in Jacksonville.

The agreement with Levens comes about a week after Dayne annoyed the Giants by failing to show up for voluntary offseason workouts.


SARS Scare in Asia

Asian soccer authorities scrapped the continent's qualifying series for the Women's World Cup because of the SARS outbreak. The qualifying series in Bangkok was scheduled for April 17-30. It was shelved because of health concerns of players and officials, the Asian Football Confederation said.

AFC will announce new dates for the competition when it receives clearance from health authorities.

The Women's World Cup is due to be held in China in September and October.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome has killed 82 people worldwide.


Russia Falls Behind

Defending champion Russia lost the first two matches against Argentina in their Davis Cup quarterfinal. Wimbledon runner-up David Nalbandian and Gaston Gaudio both won in straight sets on the red clay in Buenos Aires for the hosts' 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.


Banquet Scheduled

The All-American Football Foundation will host its 50th Banquet of Champions on Tuesday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington. Honorees will include Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen and Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.), the former Nebraska coach. Tickets are $150 and can be purchased by calling 601-206-8877.