Wednesday's Sports in Brief

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NASCAR

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Denny Hamlin won NASCAR’s first Wednesday race since 1984 when rain stopped the event with 20 laps remaining at Darlington Raceway.

The Daytona 500 winner was out front but out of fresh tires and trying to hang on when he got unintended help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The reigning Cup champion caused Chase Elliott to crash eight laps earlier to bring out the caution.

A furious Elliott waited for Busch on the apron of the track and flipped Busch the middle finger as he passed. As NASCAR cleaned the track, it started to rain and the cars were called to pit road under red-flag.

As the drivers sat in their cars waiting for NASCAR to pull the plug, a handful of Elliott’s crew members sat on the pit wall staring down Busch. One of Busch’s crew members sat between them on the wall and NASCAR eventually ordered everyone back over the wall.

Eight minutes later, the race was called and Busch was greeted by Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief and Busch’s former crew chief when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports, for a conversation between two masked competitors.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

The NCAA Division I Council voted to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1 as a growing number of college leaders expressed confidence that fall sports will be possible in some form despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

This decision clears the way for individual workouts by athletes, mostly on their own, subject to safety and health protocols decided by their schools or local health officials..

NCAA officials noted that the workouts could go on as long as all local, state and federal regulations are followed. The status of voluntary workouts for other sports will be determined later.

From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen campuses for the fall semester and conferences have begun setting up plans for how to play football amid the pandemic. The latest came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 students.

Many questions remain, including specific safety protocols and whether fans would be allowed if games proceed.

HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen F. Austin received postseason bans for having low scores on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate and agreed to several sanctions including probation, scholarship reductions and the forfeiture of wins for the improper certification of 82 student-athletes.

The football team won’t be allowed to participate in the 2020 postseason, the men’s basketball team can’t participate in the 2021-22 postseason and the baseball team will be prohibited from participating in the postseason in the spring of 2021.

Along with the bans for the low APR scores, the school agreed with the NCAA to several sanctions because of the improper certification of 82 student-athletes for competition from 2013 to 2019, meaning they competed while ineligible, a Level 1 violation. The school also acknowledged that it failed to exercise institution control when it did not detect or remedy the errors in a timely manner.

The three teams from the school in Nacogdoches were on a nationwide list released Tuesday that faced bans for posting a four-year score below 930. The scores are based on academic eligibility, graduation and retention.

NBA

The NBA is continuing to work through multiple return-to-play scenarios, with two people with knowledge of the situation saying that Orlando — which has been talked about for several weeks — along with Las Vegas and Houston remain under consideration. The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league has made no final decisions.

More than half of the league’s teams have now opened facilities for voluntary player workouts, with Minnesota expected to be the next to do so on Thursday.

Also Wednesday, Jared Dudley of the Los Angeles Lakers said he is “90% confident” that the NBA is coming back this season and that he believes players owe it to the fans to try and finish the year.

But Dudley also said that the notion of the league resuming in a “bubble” has been misguided, and that players will be allowed to leave the NBA campus, wherever it is — knowing they’ll be running a risk by doing that.

Wednesday marked the end of the 10th week since the NBA shut down on March 11, a move that came once it was known that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The pandemic halted a season that had 259 games left to play, but none of those games have been officially canceled yet.

NFL

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Aldon Smith will be able to take part in team activities with the Dallas Cowboys after the NFL conditionally reinstated the pass rusher from an indefinite suspension for off-field issues.

Smith, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2015, will be able to participate in the Cowboys’ virtual offseason program starting next week. He can also meet with teammates and coaches.

The Cowboys, who lost sacks leader Robert Quinn in free agency, signed Smith to a one-year contract last month despite his uncertain playing status. Smith was reinstated after meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on a video teleconference last week.

Smith was drafted seventh overall by San Francisco in 2011 and had 14 sacks as a rookie. He was an All-Pro in 2012 when he had 19 1/2 sacks and the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. He had 44 sacks in 50 games during his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, now on the Cowboys staff for new head coach Mike McCarthy.

Smith had several legal issues as a player with San Francisco and Oakland. He was first suspended with the 49ers in 2014 before receiving a one-year ban in November 2015 with the Raiders.

ATLANTA (AP) — With an eye toward getting back on the field during a pandemic, the NFL is working on a helmet face guard that might provide the same sort of protection as a surgical mask.

Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who heads up the league’s competition committee, said the issue was raised during a conference call about a month ago.

Thom Mayer, the medical director of the NFL Players Association, said league engineers and sports equipment company Oakley are testing prototypes of a modified face mask that might contain surgical or N95 material.

Work on the face mask is far enough along that “there will probably be a recommendation” to use it when the league begins its preseason schedule in August, according to Mayer.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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