IHRA Nitro Jam qualifying postponed

The IHRA was forced to postpone Friay’s qualifying sessions for the Nitro Jam Mardi Gras Nationals because of rain and wet conditions at State Capital Dragway in Irwinville.

Rain fell until late morning and the drag strip could not be adequately prepared for the IHRA’s 200-plus mph pro classes. The entire show — two rounds of qualifying and three rounds of eliminations — will be run on Saturday. Spectator gates will open at 10 a.m.

Serena in forgiving mood at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Serena Williams is back at Indian Wells for the first time in 14 years, and the world’s top-ranked women’s player is in a forgiving mood.

She’s stayed away from the BNP Paribas Open since winning the 2001 title as a 19-year-old, getting booed by the fans for what happened a day earlier, when she was to play older sister Venus in a semifinal and Venus withdrew because of injury 20 minutes before the start.

She will play Monica Niculescu of Romania in a second-round match Friday night.

“I’m looking forward to stepping out on center court and letting the whole world know that it doesn’t matter what you face, if it’s something that wasn’t right, hurt you, hurt your family, you can just come out and be strong and say, ‘I’m still going to be here, I’m still going to survive and I’m still going to be the best person I can be,’” Williams said Thursday.

Williams is 14-1 with two titles to her credit in three previous appearances in the desert.

Caroline Wozniacki, one of Williams’ closest friends in tennis, is among several players glad to see her return.

“It’s a big step for her and I’m sure she’s going to handle it great,” Wozniacki said.

Venus Williams hasn’t changed her mind about boycotting Indian Wells, although she and the sisters’ parents are supportive of Serena’s return. In 2001, her father Richard said he heard racial taunts from the crowd, and there was speculation that he dictated which sister would win their meetings.

Toyota signs on

as Olympic sponsor

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. signed on as a worldwide Olympic sponsor Friday in a long-term deal reportedly worth nearly $1 billion.

The deal starts globally in 2017 and runs through the 2024 Olympics, including the 2020 Games in Tokyo

Toyota becomes the first car company ever signed up by the International Olympic Committee for its top-tier TOP sponsorship program. It joins as a sponsor in the “mobility category.”

Terms of the deal were not announced, but Japanese media reported Toyota will pay $835 million.

IOC President Thomas Bach was in Tokyo to sign the agreement with Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

“This is a very symbolic day,” Bach said. “It is the first time in the successful history of the TOP program that we have had a mobility category.”

Toyota becomes the third Japanese company to become a worldwide Olympic sponsor after Panasonic and Bridgestone. Toyota also becomes the 12th TOP sponsor and third committed through 2024. Other TOP sponsors include Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

The Toyota deal covers the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2022 Winter Games and 2024 Summer Olympics. The host cities for the 2022 and 2024 games have not yet been selected.

While Toyota will join the TOP program in 2017, it will have marketing rights in Japan with immediate effect.

Compiled from

a news release

and The Associated Press.