Sonoma: Tony Stewart qualifying remarks

Stewart takes pole for Dodge/Save Mart 350k. SONOMA, Calif., (June 21, 2002) - Tony Stewart, driver of the ...

Stewart takes pole for Dodge/Save Mart 350k.

SONOMA, Calif., (June 21, 2002) - Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac, qualified on the pole for Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350k NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at Sears Point Raceway.

"The car had been good the whole day," said Stewart, defending champion of the Dodge/Save Mart 350k. "We got into turn 10 a little bit too hard there and I didn't get off as good as I wanted to, but I still felt like I was able to carry a lot of speed.

"This would be a good weekend. I don't think it's any secret to anyone that we've been struggling lately. But the nice thing about this place is that horsepower and body styles don't matter a lot. It's a matter of who gets the mechanical balance and what drivers get used to the race track. Hopefully, we can keep on with the way we're going so far this weekend. We'll just have to wait and see what happens the rest of the way."

Stewart toured the 1.99-mile road course in a track record 76.640 seconds with an average speed of 93.476 mph. Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate - Bobby Labonte - qualified 14th with a time of 77.488 seconds at an average speed of 92.453 mph.

This was Stewart's fifth career Bud Pole position in 120 races, with his most recent pole coming 58 races ago at Martinsville (Va.) in September of 2000. This was also Stewart and JGR's first road course pole. JGR has now accumulated 26 Winston Cup pole positions in its 11-year history.

The race at Sears Point has been won from the pole four times - Ernie Irvan in 1994, Mark Martin in 1997 and Jeff Gordon in 1998 and 1999.

Rounding out the top-five in qualifying were Kurt Busch (76.880 seconds/93.184 mph), Jeff Burton (76.895 seconds/93.166 mph), Jeff Gordon (76.916 seconds/93.141 mph) and Bill Elliott (76.936 seconds/93.116 mph).

Forty-five teams attempted to qualify for the 112-lap race. Those not making the cut in the 43-car field were Brandon Ash and Stacy Compton.

As far as manufacturers went, Stewart's fast lap netted Pontiac its first pole for 2002. The last time a Pontiac won a pole on a road course was with Morgan Shepherd at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) in 1989. Ford took the next two spots with the runs made by Roush Racing pilots Busch and Burton, while Chevrolet was third best thanks to the time posted by Gordon. Elliott carried the flag for Dodge.

The Dodge/Save Mart 350k gets underway on Sun., June 23 at 3 p.m. EDT. FX will carry live coverage of the event.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Stacy Compton , Morgan Shepherd , Brandon Ash , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing