Martinsville II: Qualifying report

Jeff Gordon at the front of Martinsville field again. MARTINSVILLE, VA. (October 17, 2003) -- Jeff Gordon is one step away from a rare clean sweep at Martinsville Speedway. The driver of the DuPont Chevrolet claimed the pole for Sunday's...

Jeff Gordon at the front of Martinsville field again.

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (October 17, 2003) -- Jeff Gordon is one step away from a rare clean sweep at Martinsville Speedway.

The driver of the DuPont Chevrolet claimed the pole for Sunday's SUBWAY 500 at Martinsville Speedway Friday afternoon with a quick lap of 20.220 seconds (93.650 mph) around the .526-mile oval.

The pole win gave him a sweep of the poles in the two Winston Cup events at the track this season. He won last spring's Virginia 500 from the pole, and a win Sunday in the SUBWAY 500 would give him both pole wins and both race wins for the season.

"The laps were good and smooth and I just tried to get as clean a lap as possible on that last lap," Gordon said of his pole-winning effort. "Temperatures cooled down a bit for qualifying and last time we were here we picked up two tenths from where we practiced and I was hoping we could do that again, and that's exactly what we picked up."

Ward Burton was the surprise of the day, nailing down the second starting spot in Sunday's race after a difficult week. Burton wasn't even in the Caterpillar Dodge when the team tested at Martinsville last week and it was announced earlier this week the SUBWAY 500 would be his last event in the car.

"It's been a hard week, but we'll go out there and give it the best we can for the last race," said Burton.

Dale Earnhardt continued his solid Martinsville streak, qualifying third in his Chevy. In another surprising effort, Kenny Wallace nailed the fourth starting spot while Kevin Harvick will start fifth Sunday.

"I feel real good about our chances Sunday," said Earnhardt, who started second here in the spring race. "Our strong point seems to be the long runs here. I'm real excited and happy that we are running good here. It was a real struggle when we first came on to this track."

Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers were Jimmy Spencer, sixth, followed by Rusty Wallace, Ryan Newman, Sterling Marlin and Jeff Green.

Spencer crashed his primary car early in practice but bounced back in qualifying with a backup car.

"I just made a mistake this morning. I was in a bunch of cars and made a mistake," said Spencer. "It was one of them deals where I misjudged it and ended up in the wall. We got about five laps on the backup car. I had a lot of confidence in the car. We made a few changes to it to get it to grip better, and it worked. That's just a sign the guys have confidence in me, and I've got confidence in them."

Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth qualified 14th while last week's winner Tony Stewart qualified 16th.

Action picks up at Martinsville Speedway Saturday with the Advance Auto Parts 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at 12:45 p.m.

Tickets for both the SUBWAY 500 and the Advance Auto Parts 200 remain on sale and can be purchased at the track's ticket office. Gates open at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman