Nemechek claims Michigan pole

Front Row Joe has done it again. NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Joe Nemechek checked in with the fastest lap time and claimed the pole for Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Nemechek was the 43rd car to make a ...

Front Row Joe has done it again.

NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Joe Nemechek checked in with the fastest lap time and claimed the pole for Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Nemechek was the 43rd car to make a qualifying attempt and knocked Jeff Gordon off of the spot with a fast lap speed of 191.530 miles per hour.

It's Nemechek's first pole of the season and ninth of his career.

"It was an awesome lap -- I didn't quite get it all either," said Nemechek, who eclipsed Dale Earnhardt's Jr.'s record lap time for an August race at MIS. "I knew the track had a lot of grip, but I really didn't expect it to have that much. This is a turn for our luck for the season. We're looking forward to good things. This is cool."

Gordon has admitted to needing a little luck to work his way into the Chase for the Championship. The four-time champion created some luck of his own by grabbing a front row starting position.

Gordon is currently 13th in the championship standings, trailing leader Tony Stewart by 587 points. He is 67 points behind Carl Edwards, who is at the 10th place cutoff with four races left before the Chase for the Championship.

"We've got a lot on the line and we have high expectations," said Gordon, who has four career poles at MIS. "We've got to get in that Chase. It could be a great story if we can get in there and win that championship."

Kasey Kahne will start third -- his third top-5 start in the past five races.

"We usually run well at Michigan", said Kahne, who finished 18th at MIS in June. "I used the whole racetrack coming off turn four and that probably hurt us a little bit. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Kyle Busch was the next car after Nemechek to take the track, but was called back when it started raining before he had a chance to make a lap. The rain let up and Busch resumed his lap nearly one hour later. He qualified fourth.

"Being the first car out after the rain delay -- we were kind of hesitant going into the first turn," said Busch, who had his best qualifying effort since winning the pole in California in February. "I wish I was able to follow Joe out there. I believe we would have been at least a tenth (of a second) better than we were. Overall I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Had the final five cars not been able to qualify because of the rain, Sunday's field would have been set by owner's points, relegating Nemechek to 17th place on the starting grid.

"At first I thought I was going to get robbed," Nemechek admitted. "That's the way our season has gone. I'm looking forward to (tomorrow). We're good."

Two-time Michigan winner Ryan Newman qualified fifth.

"The car was pretty good, just a little bit on the free side," said Newman, who won the pole at Michigan in June. "We're really happy with the car. We'll have to see how we are in the race, but it should be pretty good. We're here to win the race and that's what we're going to try to do tomorrow."

Mike Bliss was the 40th car to attempt to qualify, but he turned in the sixth fastest lap time for his best Nextel Cup start.

Ricky Rudd qualified sixth for his 58th race at MIS. It's Rudd's third top-10 starting position in the past four races.

"I'm really sort of surprised at this run because we spent 98 percent of our time yesterday working on race setup and I got really comfortable with what I had there," said Rudd, who claimed his only win at Michigan in 1993. "Within the rules structure they allow you to do a few things for qualifying and the guys took advantage of that."

The Roush Racing Fords of Carl Edwards (9th) and Matt Kenseth (10th) qualified in the top-10 while Mark Martin was 11th and Kurt Busch was 12th. Greg Biffle, who is looking for his third straight win in Michigan, qualified 24th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking to follow up his 10th place finish at Watkins Glen last week. He qualified 12th.

"I was real happy with my lap," said Earnhardt, who has his best starting spot since last month in Daytona. "We worked yesterday on race runs only and didn't do any qualifying runs, so that was a real good effort."

Stewart, who is looking for his third straight win and sixth in the past eight races, qualified 31st.

"We just need to be consistent," said Stewart, who won from the pole last Sunday at Watkins Glen. "We need to work harder now even though things have been going well."

Heavy rainfall in the morning threatened to force NASCAR to set the field by owner's points for the second straight week. The weather let up and MIS track dryers were hard at work cleaning up the racing surface throughout the morning. Busch Series qualifying was rained out, but the Cup drivers took to the track shortly after noon.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Mike Bliss , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin