Robbie Loomis stepped down as Jeff Gordon's crew chief yesterday, four days after the team failed to make NASCAR's chase for the championship.

Loomis will finish the season as consultant for Hendrick Motorsports while Jimmie Johnson races for the Nextel Cup title. He will join Petty Enterprises next season as vice president of race operations, where he will run the day-to-day operations for Jeff Green and Kyle Petty's teams.

Steve Letarte, who has been with Gordon's team for three of his NASCAR titles, will take over for Loomis as crew chief.

"I'm sad to see Robbie leave," Gordon said. "We made a great team and had more wins ahead of us, but the Pettys presented him with a fantastic opportunity."

Loomis joined Gordon's team in 2000, and the duo won Gordon's fourth Cup title the next season. Although Gordon has won three races this season, he hit a slump this summer and failed to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race title hunt.

* HOCKEY: Ron Francis, one of the NHL's career leaders in games played, goals, assists and points, announced his retirement, ending his 23-year career.

Francis, 42, was a four-time all-star who played for Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto. He ranks among the league's career leaders with 1,731 games (third), 1,249 assists (second), 549 goals (19th) and 1,798 points (fourth).

* BASEBALL: The United States was eliminated from the Baseball World Cup in Amsterdam after an 11-3 loss to defending champion Cuba in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, Cuba will play Panama, which beat Nicaragua, 2-1. In other quarterfinals, South Korea defeated Japan, 5-1; and the Netherlands routed Puerto Rico, 10-0.

* SOCCER: Dennis Bergkamp scored his first European Champions League goal in three years, putting host Arsenal ahead in the 90th minute of a 2-1 victory over Switzerland's Thun.

Playing a man short after Robin van Persie was ejected for a high kick in first-half injury time, the Gunners went ahead when Gilberto headed in Jose Antonio Reyes's corner kick in the 52nd minute.

Manchester United was held to a 0-0 tie at Villarreal, playing a man short after Wayne Rooney was ejected in the 64th minute for his second yellow card. . . .

MLS career scoring leader Jason Kreis of Real Salt Lake was placed on the injured list with a torn ligament in his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.

-- From News Services