Archive for Saturday, September 18, 2004

Rain puts contenders up front

Qualifying canceled in New Hampshire; Gordon awarded pole position

September 18, 2004

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— It was an inauspicious start to the 10-race playoff for NASCAR's Nextel Cup championship, with rain washing out qualifying Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Only 16 cars ran laps on the 1.058-mile oval before rain began falling. NASCAR officials waited more than an hour before deciding to set the lineup for Sunday's Sylvania 300 mostly by car-owner points.

Jamie McMurray was the fastest of the drivers who did run, turning a lap of 131.975 mph. But he will start 11th in the 43-car field.

The 10 drivers who qualified to compete under NASCAR's new championship format will start ahead of McMurray. Series leader Jeff Gordon, seeking his fifth title, and teammate and runner-up Jimmie Johnson have spots on the front row.

"This is great because it allows us to pick a great pit stall, and it gives us a great starting position," Gordon said of his gift pole.

The rest of the top 10, all separated in increments of five points for the first race of the title chase, will line up behind the Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start third, followed by Tony Stewart, reigning series champion Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, July race winner Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield and Ryan Newman.

Newman had won three of the past four poles here -- losing out only in July 2002 when qualifying also was rained out. Gordon, who leads the series with six poles, doesn't get credit for this one.

Sprague wins truck pole

Loudon, N.H. -- Jack Sprague won a series-leading fifth pole of the season and extended his career record to 25 Friday in qualifying for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Sprague, driving a Chevrolet, turned a lap of 128.515 mph on the 1.058-mile oval and will start from the front of today's Sylvania 200. Steve Park was second at 128.307 in a Dodge, followed by the Toyota of Travis Kvapil at 128.260.

Jaguar, Ford leaving F1

London -- Jaguar and parent company Ford are pulling out of Formula One racing at the end of this season after just two top-three finishes since joining the circuit in 2000.

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