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Harvick wins pole on Earnhardt’s birthday

Associated Press

Kevin Harvick marked the birthday of the late Dale Earnhardt by winning the pole Friday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

It was the third Nextel Cup pole for Harvick, who moved into Earnhardt’s seat at Richard Childress Racing a week after the seven-time NASCAR champion was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“Obviously, it’s really special for everybody at RCR and the whole GM Goodwrench crew,” Harvick said. “Hopefully, we can open a new chapter in the long book of history that Dale and everybody at RCR have shared here and get a win on Sunday.”

Earnhardt, who would have been 54, won nine races at Talladega, making Childress the most successful car owner to compete here. Harvick has two second-place finishes in eight starts on the 2.66-mile track.

Harvick picked up considerably from his practice speeds with a qualifying lap of 189.804 mph that was nearly unchallenged. Jeff Gordon was next at 188.988, putting Chevrolets on the front row for the Aaron’s 499.

“I think when you go back and look at most of the restrictor-plate races, we usually make one run and try not to overwork our motor,” Harvick explained. “That’s always been the philosophy of (crew chief) Todd Berrier, to run as few laps as possible.”

Harvick was particularly happy with the showing, considering he was driving a new car.

“We destroyed both cars at Daytona (in February), so we had to go home and build new cars,” he said. “It’s obviously been a long process. We had to build new bodies and new chassis.”

Gordon has won three of the last four races at Talladega and Daytona, the two tracks where NASCAR requires the horsepower-sapping carburetor restrictor plates to slow the cars.

He said missing the pole was not a big disappointment.

“I don’t know where those guys found that speed, but I’m happy with second,” Gordon said. “We won this race here last year in this car.”

Elliott Sadler was third in a Ford at 188.548, followed by Scott Riggs in a Chevy at 188.474 and Ryan Newman in a Dodge at 188.237. Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, the series points leader, was sixth at 188.226.

Indy Racing League

Sam Hornish Jr. won the pole position for the Indy Japan 300 in Motegi, Japan, and will be joined on the front row for today’s race by rookie Danica Patrick, the only female driver competing in the Indy Racing League this season.

Driving a Honda-powered Panoz, Patrick raced a lap of 204.504 mph on the 1.5-mile Honda-built oval.

The 23-year-old driver would have earned her first pole if not for a late charge by Hornish, who beat her with a speed of 204.740 mph.

Today’s 200-lap race is the fourth on the 17-event IndyCar Series.

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