Burton, who has driven in each of the 12 previous NASCAR races
at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway without qualifying higher than
16th, made an early lap of 182.778 mph stand up for his third pole
of the season and only the fifth of a career that began in 1993.
"I think I left a little bit out there," said Burton, who
along with Bowyer had to leave the track immediately after the
Nextel Cup time trials to practice for Saturday night's Busch
Series race at nearby O'Reilly Raceway Park.
Burton was the second of 50 drivers who tried to qualify for the
43 Brickyard starting spots, so he didn't really know what it was
going to take to stay on top with the track getting hotter and more
slippery as the session went on.
"I ran as hard as I thought I could run and come back," Burton
said. "I was a little bit conservative in a few places that if
somebody has a little more confidence, they might be able to do
better than that."
Bowyer went out seventh and posted a lap of 182.771. Kurt Busch,
who was 25th in the qualifying line, wound up third at 182.752. The
top three laps were separated by just seven-thousandths of a
Busch later blew a tire and crashed in practice. He had to
switch to a backup car, which means the 2004 Cup champion will have
to start from the rear of the field on Sunday.
"Qualifying is so big at Indy and this is my first time being
here," Bowyer said. "I wanted to start up front. Burton got me a
little bit but, hey, hat's off to everyone at RCR and everyone who
worked on my Chevrolet. We're going to be a force to be reckoned
Kasey Kahne, the last driver to qualify, was fourth at 182.441,
followed by series points leader Jimmie Johnson at 182.238 and
rookie J.J. Yeley, whose only previous race here was the 1998
Indianapolis 500, at 182.171.
"Anything can happen here at Indianapolis," Gordon said.
"We've shown that in the past. We've won races here when we
weren't a factor throughout the race."
"I'm not too worried about the qualifying run," Stewart said.
"It just means we'll have to pass a lot of cars, which makes it
fun. We started 22nd last year and worked our way up there with no
Dale Earnhardt Jr., vying for the 10th and final spot in the
Chase for the championship with Gordon and Stewart, will start
"I ain't a good qualifier, especially here for some reason,"
Junior said. "We've got a long race. We'll be fine."
The top 35 cars in team owner points are guaranteed a spot in
the starting lineup. Among the drivers who had to make it in on
speed, 2002 Brickyard winner Bill Elliott was fourth fastest.
Elliott, a former series champion and now a part-time driver, will
Also making the race on speed, barely, was Boris Said, who will
make his third start of the season from 43rd. Said, a road racing
specialist trying to make the transition to the ovals, was the
surprise last month at Daytona, winning the pole and finishing
fourth in the race.
"It's so nerve-racking," said Said, who brushed the wall twice
in Friday's practice. "When you're not in the top 35 in points,
it's just so hard to get it done in one lap. But that was our best
lap of the weekend and the best lap I've run since we tested here
Among the drivers who didn't make the field was two-time Daytona
500 winner Michael Waltrip, who also failed to qualifying for the
Coca-Cola 600 in May at Charlotte. Waltrip bought a ride in that
race from Derrike Cope, who had qualified for the field.
This time, Waltrip most likely will spend his Sunday afternoon
in the TV booth, working as part of TNT's announcing team.