Archive for Saturday, June 14, 2003

Labonte leads field at Michigan

June 14, 2003

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— Bobby Labonte won the pole, and teammate Tony Stewart took the other front-row position in qualifying Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

Stewart put up a lap of 189.464 mph for Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio 400. But Labonte knocked the other Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet off the top spot by going 190.365.

Labonte broke his own 3-year-old race qualifying record of 189.883. It was well shy of the track qualifying mark of 191.149, set in August of the same year by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The result had Stewart, the winner last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, shaking his head over Labonte's improvement from practice to qualifying.

"I'm still trying to figure out how he does what he does," the Winston Cup champion said. "He's the only guy I know that can constantly go out there every week and pick up six-tenths (of a second).

"I walked down during practice. He was quick time and we were the second-quickest time. He was sitting in the car on jack stands and I said, 'Are you doing your normal deal of going out there and picking up three-quarters of a second during your timed lap? If you are, I'm not going to work on my car anymore. I'm wasting my time down here and hanging my neck out for nothing.' "

Stewart said Labonte assured him he wasn't going to do that.

"Instead, he just gets six-tenths. I couldn't run anywhere close to what he ran," Stewart said.

Earnhardt, who qualified at 189.091, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the first three spots, echoed Stewart, but gave Labonte an even bigger edge.

"The thing about Bobby is that he always has ... seven-tenths saved up somewhere," Earnhardt said. "And he only uses as much of that seventh-tenths that he needs to. . . . He's so good at driving his car that he knows what he needs to do."

It was Labonte's third pole of the season, third at Michigan and the 24th of his career.

Compton sets track record

Sparta, Ky. -- Stacy Compton won the pole and set a track record in NASCAR Busch series qualifying Friday night at Kentucky Speedway. Compton took the top starting position for tonight's Meijer 300 with fast lap of 176.384 mph. The former Winston Cup driver got around the 11/2-mile oval in 30.615 seconds. The previous track record of 174.831 mph was set last year by Scott Riggs.

Franchitti returns to IRL

Fountain, Colo. -- After a 10-week layoff because of a motorcycle accident, Dario Franchitti returns to racing this weekend in the Honda Indy 225.

"I'm excited to be back in the car -- especially to have seen the car running so well in Texas last weekend," Franchitti said Friday at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

His return makes Sunday's field the best ever on the 1-mile oval. Drivers have combined for 112 IRL or CART wins and 78 IRL or CART pole positions.

Barrichello fastest in Montreal

Montreal -- Rubens Barrichello ran a mistake-free lap in the rain Friday to post the fastest time in pre-qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Barrichello was one of the few drivers not to slip on the slick Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, posting a time of 1 minute, 30.925 seconds on the 2.709-mile, 15-turn track. Barrichello bested Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher, who posted the second-fastest time at 1:31.969.

Junqueira wins CART pole

Monterey, Calif. -- Bruno Junqueira won his first provisional CART pole this season, twisting around the Laguna Seca road course Friday at 115.031 mph. Second was Patrick Carpentier at 114.583, followed by Paul Tracy at 114.539.

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