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Press Box: Daytona 500 draws big ratings; injured Nationwide fans might sue

The SportsXchange

There was good news and bad news for NASCAR in the wake of the Daytona 500 weekend.

On the positive side, the 55th running of the Daytona 500, in which Jimmie Johnson held off Dale Earnhardt Jr., was the highest-rated and most-watched race for FOX in five years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

On the negative side, three of the spectators hurt in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at the Daytona International Speedway have hired an Orlando-based law firm to represent them.

The race scored a 9.9/22 rating/share, and averaged 16.7 million viewers, according to fast national figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research, the most since 2008's 10.2/20, 17.8 million viewers. It represented a 24-percent ratings spike from last year (8.0/14), and a 22-percent gain in average viewership (13.7 million). The 2013 rating and viewership increases are the best year-to-year rise ever for the Daytona 500.

Highlights of the race included Danica Patrick's historic pole-position start, the official introduction of the Gen 6 car and Johnson's second Daytona 500 win coming in his 400th career race.

The 2013 race ranked as the top-rated sports event on any network since the Super Bowl and attracted more viewers than last week's NBA All-Star Game, the 2012 Kentucky Derby, the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open and the final round of the 2012 Masters.

Meanwhile, lawyer Matt Morgan of Morgan & Morgan announced on Twitter: "BREAKING: My firm has been retained by three individuals who were injured at the NASCAR race this past weekend. -- @MattMorganESQ."

No lawsuits have been filed, but Morgan told ESPN.com that he's obtaining information from the individuals to "pursue their claim for damages against the entities responsible for the injuries."

Such entities could include Daytona International Speedway, the company that designed the catch fence, NASCAR, the car owner and others.

At least 28 spectators suffered injured when Kyle Larson's car went airborne into the front stretch catch fence on the final lap. Two were initially listed in critical condition at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach. They have since been upgraded to stable condition, a hospital spokesman told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

University of Connecticut running back Martin Hyppolite is in serious condition after a Saturday morning car crash that claimed the life of a 72-year-old New Hampshire man, according to The Hartford Courant.

Citing local law enforcement, the paper reported that Hyppolite was a passenger in a vehicle driven by 22-year-old Ryan Marchant. It collided with a Buick driven by 74-year-old Bruce Larson, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The extent of Hyppolite's injuries are unknown, but he remained in serious condition at the Portsmouth Regional Hospital Monday. A UConn official told the paper that Hyppolite could be released this week, but added that his football career is "in doubt."

Hyppolite spent most of his junior season at fullback, and totaled 69 rushing yards on 19 carries. He played in all 12 Huskies games and scored a touchdown.

BASKETBALL

In a soon-to-published book about her career, former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt said her program's series with Connecticut ended over recruiting disputes with Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, according to SI.com.

The two schools had a fierce rivalry from 1995-2007, and played twice during the regular season from 2000-02, with Connecticut holding a 13-9 edge. Summitt wrote that she eventually stopped the rivalry over complaints that she didn't elaborate on in the book.

--Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said that he won't return to coach USA Basketball after the Blue Devils' season.

Krzyzewski told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" that USA Basketball will likely announce his successor this summer in preparation for the 2014 world championships in Madrid.

"I've loved, loved, loved, and it's been an honor being with the USA Basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "And to coach the team and work with (chairman and president Jerry Colangelo) for seven years has been marvelous. And we're in a good spot. We need to keep building."

Under Krzyzewski, Team USA beat Spain in two straight Olympic finals, in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London. His team won the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey without an Olympian on the roster.

GOLF

Paula Creamer, Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen are battling the effects of a five-car crash Sunday night in Bangkok, where they were driving to the airport to catch a flight to Singapore for this week's Women's HSBC Champions tournament.

Creamer strained a muscle in her neck and sustained whiplash, but participated in a photo shoot Tuesday on Marina Bay along with other LPGA Tour stars Pettersen, Angela Stanford and Yani Tseng, the No. 1 player in the Rolex World, to promote the Singapore event.

Miyazato, who also is dealing with whiplash, hit about 20 golf balls on the range Tuesday, but her neck was hurting, so she decided not to push herself beyond that.

Pettersen escaped the worst of the crash as her vehicle was at the end of the convoy and avoided smashing into the other vehicles.

NHL

The Philadelphia Flyers have brought back popular left wing Simon Gagne in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Tuesday.

The Flyers sent a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, previously acquired from Phoenix, to Los Angeles.

"Simon is an experienced veteran who will help us in a lot of areas," Holmgren said in a statement. "We are glad to have him back."

Gagne, who will turn 33 on Thursday, posted 40 points in 63 games during the 2010-11 season with the Lightning. He joined the Kings as a free agent last season, and appeared in 34 regular-season games and four playoff games to help them to a Stanley Cup championship.

NBA

--The Houston Rockets signed center Tim Ohlbrecht to a multiyear deal, general manager Daryl Morey announced.

Ohlbrecht had been playing for Houston's D-League partner, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and will make his NBA debut. The Rockets also announced that forward Tyler Honeycutt has been assigned to the Vipers.

Ohlbrecht has averaged 13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.63 blocks in 32 games with Rio Grande Valley this season.

Honeycutt was acquired by the Rockets from Sacramento on Feb. 20. He averaged 0.9 points and 1.1 rebounds in 3.6 minutes per game in nine games with the Kings this season.
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