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 Saturday, July 22
Stewart sits through rain to sit on pole
 
 Associated Press

LONG POND, Pa. -- Tony Stewart sat out a rain delay of more than 25 minutes, inspected the race track in the pace car and then set a record in qualifying Friday at Pocono International Raceway.

"I was real surprised," said the second-year driver who is taking over Winston Cup racing after the best rookie season in NASCAR history. "It's hard to go out there after it rains like that."

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart pumps his fist after winning the pole Friday for the Pennsylvania 500.

Stewart won the pole for Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 by blazing around the 2.5-mile oval in his Pontiac at 172.391 mph. That broke the record set earlier in the session by Rusty Wallace, who seemed poised to win his series-best eighth pole of the season.

"I didn't think there was any way in the world anybody was going to beat that," he said of his own lap in a Ford at 172.157. "That's OK. They're getting tired of me being on the poles."

Stewart, who leads the series with three victories in the last six races, was taken around the track by pace-car driver Buster Auten.

"He said whenever you're comfortable, we'll go," Stewart said.

After he saw Mark Martin break Wallace's month-old track record and then Wallace better that run himself, Stewart didn't think he would get his third career pole.

"I just wanted something in the top five," he said. "But I knew when I came off the third turn that it was faster than I had been all day."

Martin, looking to win for the first time in 3½ months, put himself in good position to accomplish that with his run at 171.648 in a Ford.

"It was a great lap," said Martin, winless since taking April 9 in Martinsville, Va. "I just told the guys I don't know where I left anything for them on the track.

"We've made a lot of improvements on the car since the last time we were up here," Martin said.

He started sixth and finished fifth in the Pocono 500.

Martin was just a bit faster than Jeremy Mayfield, who won last month after nudging Dale Earnhardt aside on the final lap for his second victory at Pocono and third of his career. Mayfield got around the triangular layout at 171.543.

Surprisingly, Mayfield didn't come back in the same Ford he used last month.

"The guys said it was a better car," he said of his crew. "When they say something is better, we go with it.

"We knew everybody was going to work hard and come back better, so we had to do that, too."

Fifth was three-time Pocono winner Jeff Gordon, who had the fastest Chevrolet. He went 171.497 in his bid for a third pole at the track.

He was happy with the lap, saying he didn't know what to expect.

"We brought back a different race car than a month ago," Gordon said. "I didn't know if it was going to help or not."

Sixth was Gordon's teammate, Jerry Nadeau, followed by four-time Pocono winner Bill Elliott. Martin's teammate, Jeff Burton, was eighth. Johnny Benson and Steve Park completed to top 10.

Defending series champion Dale Jarrett was 11th. Stewart's teammate, points leader Bobby Labonte, who swept the Pocono races last year, will start 13th.

Earnhardt was the final driver to get in the field in the first round of qualifying, posting the 25th-fastest speed.
 


ALSO SEE
Stewart's only concern is pedal to metal

Earnhardt Jr. OK after crash, will drive backup car

Notebook: Pressley likes idea of two-car team

Pennsylvania 500 lineup

Weber: Signs point toward a Stewart surge

Mayfield's moment passed quickly

Mayfield more popular since Earnhardt tangle

Pennsylvania 500 Breakdown



AUDIO/VIDEO
video
 Pole winner Tony Stewart talks with ESPN's Matt Yocum.
RealVideo: 28.8

audio
 Tony Stewart was surprised with his record-setting lap that won the pole.
wav: 85 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Rusty Wallace breaks down his short-lived, record-breaking lap.
wav: 140 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Mark Martin credits his team for making some key improvements to his car.
wav: 119 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 Jeff Gordon was glad to see some positive results come out of his qualifying lap.
wav: 136 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 A few missed chances puts points leader Bobby Labonte in the 13th slot.
wav: 131 k
RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6