Chicagoland: Speedway Friday report

Mears on the Pole for the Tropicana Twister 300 and Tony Stewart on the Pole for the Tropicana 400 (Joliet, Ill. - Friday, July 11, 2003) Tony Stewart blew away the competition at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday during Speedway SuperAmerica Pole...

Mears on the Pole for the Tropicana Twister 300 and Tony Stewart on the Pole for the Tropicana 400

(Joliet, Ill. - Friday, July 11, 2003) Tony Stewart blew away the competition at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday during Speedway SuperAmerica Pole Day when he shattered the track.s qualifying speed of 184.786 mph to take the top spot for Sunday.s Tropicana 400.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion.s previous best start at the track was sixth.

"If I can get Ryan Newman to wear my uniform and drive my car for qualifying, I'd feel a lot better each week. He's the qualifying king," Stewart said. "I feel like I'm a better racer than I am a qualifier".

This is Stewart's seventh career Pole in 158 NASCAR Winston Cup races. His most recent Pole came at Indianapolis on Aug. 2, 2002, 33 races ago.

Jeff Gordon will start on the outside pole. He ran a fast lap of 184.445 mph.

Bill Elliott, who is the only driver to start and finish in the top 10 in both previous Winston Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway, will start third.

"Chicagoland Speedway seems to suit my driving style if you look at it from that standpoint," Elliott said. "It's been a good race track for me. I've enjoyed racing here the last couple of years. I'm looking forward to Sunday".

"It seems like (Chicagoland Speedway), Vegas, Kansas City, Indy, Michigan are the kind of race tracks I like. You've got to roll through the corners fast and hard, and that's the kind of race tracks I like".

Friday's top-five qualifiers all bested last year's track qualifying record of 183.717. Elliott said cooler temperatures and a pre-qualifying rain shower may have helped bump up speeds.

Kevin Harvick, the only Winston Cup winner at the track, will start 11th. Rounding out the top five are Casey Mears, who will start fourth, and Jeremy Mayfield.

The qualifying run for Mears earned the rookie driver his career-best NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying effort and his second top-10 start in 2003.

Earlier in the day, Mears. NASCAR Busch Series qualifying effort netted him the pole for Saturday.s Tropicana Twister 300.

Mears was the final driver to make a qualifying attempt, running a top speed of 181.757 mph and knocking defending race winner Johnny Sauter from the top position.

"It's a big confidence booster," the nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears said. "Every time you do well, you get a pole or a win, it's a huge confidence booster for me. It just shows that what we've been doing this year is helping." Mears is running ARCA and Busch Series events to gain experience " and seat time " to be competitive in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

"This is the biggest learning curve I've ever had," Mears said. "I'm happy to be here and finally do a good job and get something going. We had the car to possibly win the pole, and we were just a little bit off, but it's been a great effort all weekend."

Bobby Hamilton Jr. was third in Busch Series qualifying at 181.598 mph, followed by Dave Blaney, Winston Cup regular Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann.

Race tickets for Saturday's Tropicana Twister 300 are sold out. Grandstand gates open at 8 a.m.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Mears , Rick Mears , Johnny Sauter , Dave Blaney