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Sports in Brief: Daytona gets thumbs-up from Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the track at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida is "real smooth" after the completion of a $20 million repaving project.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the track at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida is "real smooth" after the completion of a $20 million repaving project.

Earnhardt was the first driver on the track Wednesday as 20 cars participated in the first day of a two-day Goodyear tire test at the speedway, which underwent a massive face-lift beginning July 5 in a move precipitated by a pothole between Turns 1 and 2 during the Daytona 500.

Five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was named driver of the year for the fourth time, tying him with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins in the award's 44-year history.

A panel of journalists and broadcasters from across the country votes. Johnson received 10 votes to beat NHRA funny car champion John Force. He received seven votes, and NASCAR driver Kyle Busch got one.

AWARDS: Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider has been selected to receive the first lifetime achievement award presented at the Comcast SportsNet Shining Star Awards benefiting the March of Dimes. The event is scheduled for Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Westin Philadelphia Hotel. Hosted by Comcast SportsNet's Ron Burke, it will honor Snider for his generous charitable work and his impact on the Philadelphia sports landscape.

SWIMMING: Michael Phelps can rest easy. Ryan Lochte will not match him with eight gold medals this week in the short-course world championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Lochte's golden bid was derailed when the United States' 400-meter freestyle relay team failed to medal on the meet's opening night. The French team of Alain Bernard, Frederick Bousquet, Fabien Gilot, and Yannick Agnel won in 3 minutes,4.78 seconds.

Lochte won the 200 freestyle in a meet-record 1:41.08. Like every U.S. athlete in the meet, he wore the initials of Conshohocken's Fran Crippen on his warm-up suit. Crippen died during an open-water race in the United Arab Emirates two months ago.

China set swimming's first world record of 2010, winning the women's 800 freestyle relay in 7:35.94, lowering by nearly three seconds the mark Netherlands set two years ago.

SOCCER: Dejan Stankovic, Javier Zanetti, and Diego Milito scored to lead European champion Inter Milan over Asian champion Seongnam Ilhwa, 3-0, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and into the final of the Club World Cup. Inter will play African champion TP Mazembe on Saturday.

GOLF: After eight years as a caddie, Brett Waldman needs one himself. The caddie for Camilo Villegas said he would play the Nationwide Tour next year instead of working for one of golf's top players.

WINTER SPORTS: Skiing star Lara Gut, 19, was suspended for two races by the Swiss ski federation after she criticized head coach and former mentor Mauro Pini in interviews.

- Staff and wire reports