Texan Bobby Labonte lassos 23rd career pole

Texan Bobby Labonte lassos 23rd career pole

JUSTIN, TX - Bobby Labonte captured his second pole of 2003 by laying down a lap at 193.514 mph at Texas Motor Speedway. This is Labonte's 23rd career pole. Labonte and the No. 18 Gibbs Chevy team is off to a championship making season so far;...

JUSTIN, TX - Bobby Labonte captured his second pole of 2003 by laying down a lap at 193.514 mph at Texas Motor Speedway. This is Labonte's 23rd career pole. Labonte and the No. 18 Gibbs Chevy team is off to a championship making season so far; with three top-fives in the last three races, including a win in Atlanta.

Bobby Labonte.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

"One thing we brought with us today was confidence," said Labonte. "Obviously, we ran good in Atlanta and we've run good here in the past, and we brought the same car we ran in Atlanta.

"This Interstate Batteries team ran great. All the guys have worked real hard; we have been doing good so far this year. And here at Texas, it is exciting to get the pole here. The guys did the job, I just drove it."

Labonte's teammate, and current Winston Cup champion had a far worse day than Labonte. NASCAR impounded Stewart's car after morning inspection, and the No. 20 team had to clamber to ready the back-up car for the qualifying session.

"The car we have now is set up really similar to the car we had," Stewart's crew chief Greg Zipadelli commented. "We put our backup motor in, which is only a couple of horsepower off of what we had in the primary. We just changed a lot of things. There were a few little things we weren't able to change."

Stewart will start from the 22nd position on Sunday.

Starting on the outside pole, on the other hand, is RYR No. 38 Ford of Elliott Sadler. Sadler and his new team seem to be gelling, he sat on the pole two weeks ago in Darlington and was third in Atlanta.

"That's the second year in a row we've qualified on the outside pole here," Sadler recalled. "Maybe one day we might get a pole here.

Elliott Sadler.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.
"I think I actually hit all my marks for once and had a lot of momentum through the corners. I just came up a little bit short."

"It's a bunch of young guys getting it done.  They brought me another great
race car.  We almost got our second pole, but we were a little bit off."

On Sunday, Ryan Newman will roll off third in the No. 12 Penske Dodge. Newman is hot; he hasn't qualified worse than third in his last five starts.

"It was a good effort by the entire team today," the Penske driver commented. "It's our Atlanta car. It was 80 degrees yesterday and 50 here today. Let's say 30 degrees equals six-tenths. I think the biggest thing was the temperature.

"These tires are really hard tires. The track being black, I think is the other thing. When the ambient temperature comes down, the track temperature doubles.

"We blew a motor last year, but last year was my first Cup race here.It was probably one of the better races as far as speed and not having issues of water and everything else. I think with the track being a little older, obviously Saturday's Busch race is going to be the best eye opener for what the track has to offer, but I think it'll be a good race."

Ryan Newman.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.
Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy will take to the track from the fourth position. This is Johnson's best start this season.

"Bobby (Labonte) put a heck of a lap up there," said Johnson. "But, that was a great lap for us. We'd been fighting a little loose in and we got that cured. I was a little tight into the center, but I'm not complaining. I carried a lot of momentum and I really thought that was as good as I could do. Chad (Knaus) brought a great race car."

Rounding out the top ten were Jerry Nadeau, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Joe Nemechek, and Rusty Wallace.

Championship points leader and defending race winner, Matt Kenseth takes the green flag from the 17th position.

Greg Biffle took the top rookie honors in qualifying today; he will start 20th in his Roush Racing Ford.

"We're in on time," commented Biffle. "So we won't have to take a provisional, but it won't be that great of a starting spot."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Jerry Nadeau , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler