Bobby Labonte steals Michigan pole from teammate

Bobby Labonte steals Michigan pole from teammate

Brooklyn, MI (June 13, 2003) -- Would the last one out, please take the pole -- and he did. Bobby Labonte drew the last qualifying position for the Sirius 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Bobby Labonte. Photo by Tony ...

Brooklyn, MI (June 13, 2003) -- Would the last one out, please take the pole -- and he did. Bobby Labonte drew the last qualifying position for the Sirius 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Bobby Labonte.
Photo by Tony Johns.
Gridding at the tail end of the qualifying line meant he had time to sign autographs for the tons of fans that lined the wall to pit road; it would be a while before he would get his chance.

Prospects for the first car in line were iffy as the Thursday rain had washed most of the rubber from the track. The ARCA and the NASCAR Winston Cup cars had been out for their morning practices but there is an incompatibility between ARCA mandated Hoosier rubber and Winston Cup Goodyear Rubber laid on the track. So if the sun stayed behind the clouds and the track stayed cool and dry, the later qualifiers would probably be a bit faster.

This proved the case as the pole position changed seven times with Dale Ernhardt Jr. with a speed of 38.077 (189.091 mph) holding the top spot for the longest time.

"I was pretty happy with my lap," Earnhardt said. "I think the Gibbs cars are going to be strong because the both ran good in practice".

And true to those words, the Joe Gibbs Racing Home Depot Chevrolet of Tony Stewart did best Ernhardt Jr. for the coveted No.1 position with a speed of 38.002 (189.464 mph.)

Things were looking good for the current Winston Cup champion, who quipped "That's all I had. I don't think I could have squeezed any more out of it. That is as fast as we could go today".

His teammate had other ideas. Last car in line, Labonte, unleashed that Joe Gibbs horsepower and captured the pole at the last minute with a flying lap of 190.365, but missing Ernhardt Jr.'s record run of two year ago at 191 plus.

Labonte was elated: "The car handled really well and it stuck real well in qualifying. I was really happy with it. The speed was fast, and I felt like it was good coming up off the corner, so I felt like some speed was going to be there."

Kurt Busch.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
When the dust settled the top three were Bobby Labonte, Stewart and Ernhardt Jr. all with Chevrolet power. Kurt Busch gave it a good go in the Rubbermaid Ford and will start outside the 2nd row. Bobby's big brother, Terry Labonte, in the Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet is showing his form by placing 5th.

Sixth was the Dupont Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon with solid run followed by Elliott Sadler in the M&M Ford in 7th, Saddler had tested at Michigan two weeks prior to the race and the results showed.

Howard Comstock, the Dodge Winston Cup Manager was hopeful for a strong run from the Dodge teams but when the dust settled, the best Dodge was Ryan Newman in 8th place. Michael Waltrip in the NAPA Chevrolet was 9th and Kevin Harvick in the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet was 10th.

Points leader Matt Kenseth was down in 21st position: "That was alright. The track was real fast at the time. I kind of messed up my first lap, you know, and got a better second lap. That'll give us a halfway decent starting spot".

Failing to qualify were Mike Skinner and Larry Foyt, their cars already on the trailer and garage areas vacated.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Larry Foyt , Elliott Sadler
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing