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Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte visits Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP)

Think three-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte moves fast in the pool? Watch him on the highway.

Lochte, who served as grand marshal for the first of two 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500, said Thursday he has reached 175 mph in one of his cars.

''I drive it pretty fast,'' Lochte said. ''Just on the highway. I made sure no one was around.''

Lochte won't have the same luxury during a busy weekend, which includes touring Daytona International Speedway, a swimming event in nearby Orlando and a trip to the NBA All-Star game.

As for the London Games? Well, Lochte said he hopes to supplant Michael Phelps as the top swimmer in the pool. Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.

''That's the plan,'' Phelps said. ''I have (beaten Phelps) in the past couple of years. My training's been a lot better than the years before, so I definitely know I'm ready for this summer. It won't be easy, but I know I'm capable of doing that.

''A lot of people (ask) if I'm going for eight (gold medals), but honestly I could go for one or I could go for 20, I just love racing. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do out there and swim as many events as possible and we'll just hope for the best.''

Lochte grew up in Daytona Beach and attended the University of Florida in Gainesville.

''I've been coming to NASCAR races pretty much my whole life and it's fun,'' he said. ''I love just going fast.''

Really fast.

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BUSCH APOLOGY: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch publicly apologized Thursday to the ESPN reporter he berated during last season's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch began an on-camera interview with ESPN's Jerry Punch by hugging him and saying he was ''so sorry with the way last year ended.''

''I feel horrible,'' Busch added.

A fan videotaped Busch verbally abusing Punch as he waited to be interviewed. Busch also was caught on his in-car camera making an obscene gesture as he drove into the garage at Homestead. NASCAR later fined Busch $50,000.

Busch and Penske Racing parted ways a few weeks later in what both called a mutual agreement, but many believe he was fired in the fallout of yet another embarrassing incident for the race team.

Busch, who has been working with a sports psychologist, is now driving the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch.

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FRANCE TRIBUTE: Daytona International Speedway has a new statue, this one to honor late NASCAR head Bill France Jr.

France helped build NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. into the national racing series that it is today, and the famed track recognized his achievements with a sculpture just outside the track.

The statue of the 6-foot-5 France is more than 10 feet tall. It was created by sculptor John Lajbe and was unveiled Wednesday, placed near the track's two other statues - one of seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt and another of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and his wife, Anne.

France Jr. died in 2007 from lung cancer.

On hand for the unveiling were France's widow, Betty Jane France; his son, current NASCAR CEO Brian France; his daughter, ISC President Lesa France Kennedy; and his brother, ISC CEO Jim France.

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STEWART'S SECOND THOUGHT: Defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart has had several days to think about Saturday night's frantic finish in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout, and there are some things he would have done differently.

Kyle Busch pushed Stewart for much of the final lap, then pulled to the outside and edged Stewart at the finish line. It was the tightest finish in the history of the event.

And Stewart has replayed the ending since.

''I've got a couple of ideas and none of them would be trying to block him,'' Stewart said. ''That would have been the last idea I would have had. If you try to block that guy, you're just going to get wrecked and you're probably going to wreck both cars. ... I've got a couple of ideas in my mind, but I don't want to share them with everybody to be honest. I might need them for Sunday.''

Stewart acknowledged that he should have driven closer to the apron, reducing the amount of side draft Busch got during the pass.

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PACKER BACKER: As a Wisconsin native and avid Green Bay Packers fan, Matt Kenseth was happy to hear that standout tight end Jermichael Finley has agreed to a new two-year contract with the team. Finley confirmed the deal on his Twitter account Wednesday night.

''I think he's probably one of the best tight ends in the league,'' Kenseth said.

Now, about those passes Finley dropped last season.

''After watching all those drops at the end of the year, I thought maybe they should have paid him per catch and then subtract per drop or something like that,'' Kenseth said. ''I thought that would have been cool.''

Kenseth is known for his dry sense of humor, but insisted his pay-per-catch idea was somewhat serious.

''Racing's changed a little bit through the years,'' Kenseth said. ''A lot of it's incentive-based. The better you finish, the more you get paid. The worse you finish, the less you get paid. But I do think he's really good.''

Tagged: Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch

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