Leading Off

Manteca still not in CalHi's top spot

Back-to-back losses weren't enough to knock Oaks Christian of Westlake Village (2-2) out of the No. 1 spot in the Division III football poll, so Manteca (4-0) and Oakdale (3-1) settled for the Nos. 2 and 3 spots. There was speculation that the Valley Oak League rivals might climb to the top spots, after the two teams ranked ahead of them lost Friday night. Manteca visits Oakdale on Oct. 19 in a showdown between league powers. The two have combined to win the last six VOL football titles, with Manteca winning the last two. Central Catholic (2-1-1) and Patterson (4-0) remained Nos. 2 and 3 in the Division IV rankings, and Merced (4-0) stayed at No. 4 in the Northern California poll.

Busch Series now going 'Nationwide'

Nationwide Insurance has signed a seven-year deal to become the title sponsor of NASCAR's No. 2 series beginning in 2008. Nationwide replaces Anheuser-Busch, which has sponsored the second-tier Busch Series for 26 seasons. The series will be called the NASCAR Nationwide Series. NASCAR chairman Brian France, who made the announcement Wednesday, said the decision to go with Nationwide came after "a very thorough process of trying to find the right partner, adding up what we think is important for the series and all the things that you would expect us to be thinking about. We know this is going to propel the series even further." Neither France nor Nationwide Chief Marketing Officer James Lyski would reveal the numbers involved in the agreement, but it is believed to be between $10 and $12 million a year, similar to what Anheuser-Busch was paying.

Parker taking break from national squad

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, the first man not from the United States to win the NBA Finals MVP, will take a two-year hiatus from the French national team. Parker said on his Web site Wednesday he needed time to rest and pledged to return to the team in time for the 2009 European championship in Poland.

United winning but isn't scoring much

Alex Ferguson is searching for a cure to Manchester United's lack of scoring punch. While savoring Tuesday's 1-0 victory over AS Roma in the Champions League, Ferguson was also reflecting on the fact that it was United's sixth single-goal victory in eight matches this season. "It's a disease," the Red Devils manager said. "I'm trying to get a vaccine for it." Replicating the epic 7-1 rout of the Italians at Old Trafford in April never seemed likely as United ground out three points by another slender margin. Ferguson called on his players to stop being so averse to risk-taking.

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