After a one hour, forty minute delay due to severe weather in the greater Joliet area, Winston Cup qualifying finally got rolling at Chicagoland Speedway. Reigning series champion Tony Stewart went out mid-pack and shattered the track qualifying...
After a one hour, forty minute delay due to severe weather in the greater Joliet area, Winston Cup qualifying finally got rolling at Chicagoland Speedway. Reigning series champion Tony Stewart went out mid-pack and shattered the track qualifying record with a lap of 184.786 mph. The previous record of 183.713 mph had been set by Todd Bodine in 2001.
"It was a good solid run," said Stewart.
"It's better than what we practiced," Stewart continued. "With the rain I didn't know how much grip the track was going to have in it."
It is Stewart's seventh career pole, and first this season. Previously, Stewart's best start at the 1.5-mile oval in Joliet was sixth in 2002.
Four time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon takes the green flag Sunday from the outside pole. A pretty decent feat considering Gordon has been under the weather all week. Under medical supervision, Gordon is taking antibiotics and decongestants to battle a spring virus.
"Not bad at all," said Gordon. "Track position is really important here and were real happy to be on the front row right now. The car has been awesome all day long. What a great effort this team has put in here."
Bill Elliott, another former series champion, starts third.
"I've enjoyed racing here the last couple of years," said Elliott. "I'm looking forward to Sunday. I qualified third here last year, and we needed to step it up a bit. I thought we had a pretty good lap going. Practice didn't go well for us, and we made quite a few changes to the car right before qualifying. The little rain shower probably picked the speeds up."
Rookie Casey Mears, who earlier today scored his first ever Busch series pole, rolls off fourth. This marks Mears best starting spot of his career; it is his first race at Chicagoland.
"We taped up the front nose and it did a couple of other things hoping it was going to be a little tight for us," said Mears. "It just screwed us up too much. I got loose and got high on the first lap. On the second lap, it was just a little bit too loose."
Jeremy Mayfield and the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge team rounds out the top five. It is Mayfield's fifth top ten start this season.
"I'm really proud of these guys," said Mayfield. "They've been working really hard on this Dodge. We're getting better every week. It makes it a pleasure to drive. Bill (teammate Elliott) is up there in top five somewhere, and I feel real good about that. We're going to have a good car for Sunday. This team really made a turn for the better three or four weeks ago. It seems like we keep getting better every week. I just can't say enough about all these guys on this team. Everybody is working hard."
Back-to-back Chicago winner Kevin Harvick in the No.29 RCR Chevy starts from the 11th spot on Sunday.
"It's a good race car," said Harvick. "It was a little bit faster than we thought we'd run going through inspection. All in all it was a good lap for us."
"I'm not a very good qualifier," Harvick continued. "We've qualified in the top 10 the last two or three weeks.but for the most part when you go someplace where you've won two times in a row and you're going for a third, it gives you a lot of confidence."
Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth qualified 24th, currently he leads the rankings by 180 points.
"It's driving good, we just don't have the speed," commented Kenseth.
Notably, Johnny Sauter piloting the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Pontiac makes his Winston Cup debut from 20th position. Sauter won the Busch race here last year.
"This track just must suit my driving style," said Sauter. "I'm really looking forward to the whole weekend."
Forty-four drivers attempted to qualify for the forty-three car field, Jason Keller driving the No. 81 DEI Chevy this weekend, failed to make the show. The teams having to take provisionals because they did not qualify on time were Ricky Rudd, Kenny Wallace, Todd Bodine, Mike Wallace, Kyle Petty, Christian Fittipaldi and Ken Schrader.