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Auto racing

WHELDON CONFIDENT: Dan Wheldon has been waiting nearly two weeks to officially clinch his first IRL championship. A little fog and rain during practice Friday for the inaugural Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix wasn't about to dampen his spirits.

"It's just practice, it doesn't matter," Wheldon said after posting the fourth-best run over the storied 3.4-mile road course. "You can feel brilliant, but if you don't perform tomorrow and Sunday, you're going to be nowhere."

Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500, set an Indy car mark two weeks ago with his sixth victory in 15 races this season, edging Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. to win the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Wheldon, who leads the series with 11 top-five finishes and has failed to finish only one race, has 570 points, 102 more than Andretti Green teammate Tony Kanaan. To clinch his first IRL title, Wheldon simply has to start Sunday's race, and once it reaches the halfway mark and becomes official, he can begin celebrating, if he hasn't already.

Softball

UTAH TEAMS ADVANCE: At the D-Class Softball World Series in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, Utah's three seeded teams all won their opening-round games.

Thunder Bay of Sanpete County notched wins in the first and second rounds of the tournament, including a 10-7 win over Southern California's No. 1 seed Diamond Dogs.

Utah County's Tallon Painting also advanced past the second round, though Exit Realty lost its second game.

Hockey

ANTHEM TRYOUTS: The Utah Grizzlies are searching for professional and talented national anthem singers for the 2005-2006 season. Auditions are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, at the E-Center.

The Grizzlies are also looking for individual or group performers for intermission entertainment on game nights.

For more information, or to register for an audition, please call Walter Cordiner at (801) 988-8022 or email him at wcordiner@utahgrizz.com.

Opening night at the E-Center is Friday, Oct. 21, when the Grizzlies welcome Las Vegas for their first ECHL showdown.

Soccer

U-17 TIE: Midfielder Jeremy Hall scored on an 8-yard header in the fourth minute, and the United States tied Ivory Coast 1-1 Friday to complete play in the first round of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship.

The United States (2-0-1), which opened with wins over North Korea and Italy, already was assured of advancing to the quarterfinals, where the Americans will play defending champion Brazil, Gambia, the Netherlands or Qatar. The United States finished first in Group C and will play the second-place team in Group D, which was to be determined later Friday.

TOURNEY AWARDED: The NCAA on Friday awarded the 2006 men's soccer tournament to St. Louis, a day after the city was given the 2008 and 2009 NCAA wrestling championships. The soccer tourney will be held at Saint Louis University's Robert Hermann Stadium, where temporary seats will boost attendance to 7,100.