AUTO RACING

Thunderstorms washed out the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, an event further dampered Sunday night when news broke that a noose was found in Black driver Bubba Wallace’s garage stall.

Hours after Confederate flags were displayed outside the track – some flying from pickup trucks – in protest of NASCAR’s Wallace-led ban of the flags, the sanctioning body said it was made made aware of the noose late in the afternoon.

“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” NASCAR said. “We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.”

Wallace, the lone Black driver in the elite Cup Series, drives the No. 43 Chevrolet for racing icon Richard Petty.

“The despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and ow persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said on Twitter. “As my mother told me today, `They are just trying to scare you.’ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”

Outside the track Sunday, vehicles waving and flying Confederate flags lined the boulevard running past the massive speedway, while a plane flew above the track pulling a banner of the Confederate flag that said “Defund NASCAR.”

NASCAR has not stated how exactly it plans to stop fans from displaying the flag on track property, and none of the instances of the flag Sunday at Talladega were inside the facility.

Thunderstorms forced NASCAR to postpone the race until 3 p.m. Monday. It’s the first race amid the coronavirus pandemic in which NASCAR opened the gates for up to 5,000 fans. Those in the grandstands were urged to seek shelter roughly 30 minutes before the scheduled start, leading to a two-plus hour wait before the race was postponed.

SOCCER

ENGLAND: Liverpool’s quest for its first Premier League title in 30 years was slowed by a 0-0 draw against city rival Everton.

The quietest of the 236 Merseyside derbies, with fans denied access to Everton’s Goodison Park, produced no goals and left Liverpool with a 23-point lead over Manchester City, which hosts Burnley on Monday. If Man City ties or loses to Burnley, Liverpool can clinch the title Wednesday at home against Crystal Palace.

With eight games remaining, Liverpool has considerable breathing space to end its drought.

Healthy enough to make his first appearance in nearly six months, Christian Pulisic sparked Chelsea to a comeback victory over Aston Villa.

The 21-year-old American returned from an adductor muscle injury and scored the tying goal five minutes after entering in the second half. Olivier Giroud put Chelsea ahead two minutes later in a 2-1 win that strengthened the Blues’ hold on fourth place in the Premier League.

Pulisic entered in the 55th minute for his first match since Jan. 1. Chelsea switched flanks following a throw-in, and Cesar Azpilicueta crossed back as Pulisic sprinted in and redirected the ball near the far post.

Chelsea moved five points clear of Manchester United and Wolverhampton in the race for Champions League qualification.

SPAIN: Real Madrid took advantage of rival Barcelona being the first to stumble after La Liga resumed, moving into a tie for first place with a 2-1 win at Real Sociedad.

Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema scored second-half goals as Madrid moved ahead of Barcelona, which was held to a 0-0 draw by Seville on Friday.

RUSSIA: Dynamo Moscow said three of its players tested positive for the coronavirus as its game on the Russian league’s restart weekend was postponed.

Sunday’s game was the second to be disrupted by the coronavirus since the league restarted Friday after a three-month pause. League and federation officials said the development did not justify stopping the season.

ITALY: Soccer resumed in one of the Italian cities hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic with a poignant match as Atalanta gave a much-needed boost to the residents of Bergamo.

Atalanta beat Sassuolo 4-1 in its first Serie A match in 112 days, and the first in Bergamo since Feb. 15.

“There’s a lot going on in the world and Bergamo has been hit hard. This win was for the city, the people, the club. The worst days are behind us, change is coming,” Atalanta midfielder Marten de Roon wrote in a post on Twitter after the match.

More than 16,000 people have died from the virus in the Lombardy region containing Bergamo, and the small city was one of the epicenters of the outbreak.

HORSE RACING

SANTA ANITA: A horse injured after crossing the finish line of a race Saturday was euthanized, making it the 15th fatality at the southern California track since late December.

Strictly Biz, a 4-year-old colt, fractured his right knee while galloping past the finish of the sixth race. The attending veterinarian determined it was an unrecoverable injury.

The track’s spring-summer meet ends Sunday.

FOOTBALL

FORMER USC STAR DIES: Max Tuerk, an All-America offensive lineman at Southern California who was drafted by the Chargers, has died. He was 26.

USC announced his death Sunday on Twitter, but not say when Tuerk died or provide a cause of death.

Tuerk played for the Trojans from 2012-15. He was selected by the Chargers in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, but a knee injury during his senior year affected his progress, and he played only one NFL game, for the Cardinals in 2017.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

UFC: Heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes dominated Alexander Volkov with wrestling Saturday night, earning his fourth consecutive victory in a suffocating unanimous decision in Las Vegas.

Featherweight Josh Emmett won a unanimous decision over Shane Burgos in the penultimate bout of the latest show from the fan-free UFC Apex gym in the mixed martial arts promotion’s hometown.

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