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Keeping Pace

Sat., June 6, 2009, 1:30 a.m.

Rainout in qualifying puts Stewart on NASCAR Cup Series Pocono Pole

The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driven by Brian Vickers (left) and the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (right) sit in the garage Friday after rain canceled practice and qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Penn. Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet will start on the pole based on owner points. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)  (John Harrelson / The Spokesman-Review)
The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driven by Brian Vickers (left) and the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (right) sit in the garage Friday after rain canceled practice and qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Penn. Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet will start on the pole based on owner points. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR) (John Harrelson / The Spokesman-Review)

Thanks to a qualifying rainout Friday at Pocono Raceway, Tony Stewart will start on the pole for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the first time since Oct, 23, 2005, at Martinsville.

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

LONG POND, Pa. -- Thanks to a qualifying rainout Friday at Pocono Raceway, Tony Stewart will start on the pole for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the first time since Oct, 23, 2005, at Martinsville.

"Obviously, everybody is disappointed we didn't get on the racetrack today, but it worked out good for myself and (second-place starter) Jeff (Gordon)," Stewart said. "It's nice to be able to get a front-row starting spot because of rain, but that's not what the fans came to see."

The rainout also was good news for Gordon's aching back, which got an extra day of rest. At Pocono, Gordon's back won't be under the same stress he experienced last Sunday at one-mile, high-banked Dover, where Gordon hit the wall hard during qualifying May 29.

"I think this track's one of the easier tracks (on his back)," said Gordon, who will start beside Stewart in Sunday's Pocono 500 under NASCAR's rainout rules, which order the front of the field according to the current owner points standings. "You get a lot of rest on those long straightaways. About the only place that it might be an issue is under braking getting into Turn 1.

"I had to do a test at Road Atlanta this week -- that was one of the real tests (of the condition of his back). I was surprised that we got through it pretty good, especially after the wreck last Friday during qualifying. I was pretty sore from that."

Jimmie Johnson will start third, followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.

Sunday's race will be the first under NASCAR's new restart format, with lead-lap cars taking the green flag double-file, with lapped cars behind them.

Gordon, 37, welcomed the day off at Pocono, with rain washing out qualifying and the Cup practice session that was to have preceded it.

"When you go to qualify here -- it doesn't matter how good you were in practice -- you're going to have to pick up a bout a second from practice," he said. "Laying it out there on the line through that tunnel turn is hairy. I'm getting old, and I hit the wall last week in qualifying. So I'm fine with not taking that qualifying lap here today and saving it for another week, even though I like qualifying."

Notes: This is the second qualifying rainout for the Cup series this year• Under the rainout rules, Derrike Cope, Tony Raines and Mike Wallace failed to make the 43-car field. Wallace would have made the field had his team's entry form not been received late.




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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.






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