Rain plays havoc in final practice at Atlanta

Tony Stewart was the fastest in the rain-shortened final Winston Cup practice in Atlanta, with a lap of 185.542 mph, considerably slower than the laps the field was putting on the board in the morning session. Tony Stewart was the fastest in the...

Tony Stewart was the fastest in the rain-shortened final Winston Cup practice in Atlanta, with a lap of 185.542 mph, considerably slower than the laps the field was putting on the board in the morning session.

Tony Stewart was the fastest in the rain-shortened final NASCAR practice in Atlanta, with a lap of 185.542 mph, considerably slower than the laps the field was putting on the board in the morning session.

The red flag flew approximately 30 minutes into the Winston Cup practice, halting the final session for about 15 minutes. Cars were on and off the speedway as rain continually peppered the track. Drivers were able to get most of practice in, however, as officials extended the session due to a trio of brief rain delays.

Stewart had been second this morning with a faster speed of 187.190 mph. He is clearly the favorite for the win tomorrow, as he enters Atlanta not just the point leader, but also as the man who found victory at the MBNA America 500 here in March. Stewart led 143 of 325 laps in that race, leading the most laps for the second consecutive race. In seven starts at Atlanta, though, Stewart has one other top-ten finish to his name.

Jeff Gordon, who made his first ever Winston cup start at Atlanta in November of 1992, starts seventh for the NAPA 500. Today's final practice saw him set the fourth fastest lap of 184.708.

"(The car) is great, real fast on new tires obviously with some of the laps we've run," said Gordon. "We started out this morning and they were a little free and as we run and rubber gets laid down the track gets tighter and tighter, we need to get a little free so we can be better on the long runs."

"This is one of those places where you've got to have a certain feel," Said Gordon. "It's extremely fast. For this race, we brought the car we won with at Kansas City. A car that worked good on a mile and half racetrack should work well here. But this place is its own beast. It's a momentum track. It's a fast track. The same things don't always apply."

Gordon has certainly been successful at this track, with three victories and eight other top-ten finishes to his name. In this morning's first practice session, he was fastest, turning a lap of 187.190 mph.

Jimmie Johnson, who trails Tony Stewart by 82 points in the NASCAR championship, was 8th quickest. Johnson has taken two starts at Atlanta, with a third-place finish to his credit.

Rounding out the top ten fastest drivers from happy hour were Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (2nd), Dale Jarrett (3rd), Kevin Harvick (5th), Bobby Labonte (6th), Todd Bodine (7th), Kurt Busch (9th), and Ward Burton (10th).

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson