Early caution will fly so teams can check tire wear

INDIANAPOLIS -- NASCAR will have a competition caution early in Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to allow teams to check tire wear.

What lap will be determined on Sunday.

"We'll sleep on it and figure out when," series director John Darby said after Saturday's qualifying. "It's just to make everybody feel a little better."

Darby said tire wear was better than ever for Indianapolis during practice. The biggest fear is an overnight rain that could wash all the rubber off the track.

Rain washed out Friday's two practices and it took nearly two hours to get enough rubber back on the track to make many drivers feel comfortable.

"If there is rain tonight they're going to have to throw a mandatory caution at lap 5, lap 15 and at lap 30," four-time Brickyard 400 champion Jeff Gordon said.

"That's the issue we're being dealt right now. It's pretty major. I was happy by the end of practice. We put 15 laps on a set of tires and it was getting better."

Backup plan for Yeley

J.J. Yeley had to unload another No. 18 Chevrolet within the first hour of Saturday's practice. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver spun in Turn 4, hitting the SAFER barrier and doing moderate damage to the left side of the car. He was uninjured and returned to the track in the backup car.

"We went out, made three or four runs and the car was really good," said Yeley, ninth in the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and 34th last year in his first Cup race at the track. "We were going to make an eight-lap run to see how our tire wear was and for whatever reason it got loose on the exit of Turn 4. It really caught me by surprise. I thought I had it saved for a minute -- I just couldn't keep it."

Yeley qualified 23rd in the backup.

"It wasn't a bad day overall, I guess. Not exactly what we wanted. We qualified sixth last year, but to switch to a backup car and miss as much practice as we did, we're pretty happy with it," Yeley said. "I probably could have picked up another tenth (of a second) or two myself on the racetrack, but we're out of bullets in the trailer, so if something went wrong we'd definitely be in big, big trouble."

Brush with wall costs Allmendinger

Red Bull rookie A.J. Allmendinger missed the show after hitting the wall in Turn 4, negating a lap that he thought would have easily been good enough to qualify for his ninth start of the season.

"I just wish I could have turned more laps here," said Allmendinger, who has qualified for eight of 20 races. "This is a unique track with a lot of nuances, and I needed more than the 20 laps we got in practice to become comfortable with it."

Fellow Toyota drivers Dale Jarrett and Jeremy Mayfield also failed to qualify, as did Joe Nemechek, Kevin Lepage and Kenny Wallace.

Happy camper

Team owner Chip Ganassi was asked by an Indianapolis Motor Speedway official whether he liked Indy racing or Cup racing better after taking the top two spots in qualifying with Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya.

"It depends on which one I'm at," deadpanned Ganassi, who also owns cars in the IRL.

Starting on the outside pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't new to Montoya.

Montoya started second in his first Indianapolis 500 and led 167 of 200 laps to claim an easy victory.

Unhappy camper

Kyle Busch wasn't happy with his qualifying lap, to say the least.

Nextel Cup's hottest free agent blew off his scheduled media availability set for post-qualifying, which NASCAR officials said will earn his representatives a conversation.

Busch answered only one question, and that was a one-word response to whether he'd completed a contract with the organization he plans to drive for next season.

"No," said Busch, who will start 18th.

Busch, who will be replaced by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, is being pursued by Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Evernham Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.

He was scheduled to meet with all four DEI drivers and management on Saturday and is scheduled to meet with EMS owner Ray Evernham next week.