Saturday, June 25, 2005
Gordon claims Sonoma qualifying
Auto Racing stories
- Crash doesn't rattle NASCAR rookie
- NASCAR notebook: Lawsuit is considered after wreck injures fans
- Johnson wins 1 for his crew chief
- Johnson steals Daytona thunder
- Auto racing archive
SONOMA, Calif. -- Jeff Gordon won the pole and teammate Jimmie Johnson will join him in an all-Hendrick Motorsports front row for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Infineon Raceway.
Gordon won the pole with a track-record lap of 94.325 mph. As he completed his lap, Gordon radioed his team, "We got him,'' before knowing his time. This is Gordon's fifth pole at this track and 54th in his career.
Mark Martin, Boris Said and Robby Gordon complete the top five. This is the best starting spot for those three this season. Tony Stewart, runner-up at Michigan last weekend, qualified seventh. Terry Labonte, driving in place of Jason Leffler this weekend at Joe Gibbs Racing, qualified eighth. Road racer Scott Pruett starts ninth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 10th.
Greg Biffle, who is second in the points to Johnson, slid off course on his qualifying lap and will start 41st. Elliott Sadler also slid off course on his attempt and starts 42nd.
Johnson was thrilled to finish a lap without incident. Problems on his lap the last two years relegated him to starting spots of 34th and 37th. Johnson yelled on his radio as he finished his lap, excited about completing it without any problems.
""You blew out my eardrums,'' crew chief Chad Knaus radioed Johnson.
Bruton Smith, chief executive and chairman of the board of Speedway Motorsports Inc., wouldn't reveal details Friday, but said there would be "a lot of things'' done to the Lowe's Motor Speedway surface before the series returns there in October.
Many drivers complained about the track surface in May. The track underwent a grinding process called levigation. The change was intended to create more side-by-side racing. Instead, the Coca-Cola 600 had a series-record 22 cautions -- 16 for accidents and spins.
"You'll be hearing about" the changes, said Smith, whose company owns Lowe's Motor Speedway, along with five other tracks that host Cup races. "We've had engineers out there for the past week, so we're making some decisions and they're going to be the right ones.
"I liked [levigation], but I think it created some problems. But still, it made for a heck of race. That's what we're after. I'm not worried about cost. I want to make sure [the changes] are right.''
That's the advice Bobby Hamilton Sr. offered his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr., in regards to Hamilton Jr.'s ride with Cal Wells' team. Ron Fellows, a road racing specialist, will drive for Hamilton Jr. this weekend because the team is outside the top 35 in car owner points and must qualify to make the race.
Asked what he's told his son during this season, Hamilton Sr. said: "To find something else to drive," he said. "I mean, there's too many chiefs and not enough Indians there. They've got just enough employees to survive, barely get to a race track and survive a Nextel Cup deal. I think the world of the owner [Wells].
"I know the crew chief and driver have a ton of talent together. Hopefully, they can land back on their feet someplace else.''
The Nextel-Sprint merger won't affect NASCAR next year. A Nextel official said that the series will be called NASCAR Nextel Cup next year. A decision on what to call the series for the 2007 season is expected to be made around next year's Daytona 500. The decision will be made a year in advance to give more time for a possible name change.
Bobby Labonte wrecked in practice and had to go to a backup car. ... Kyle Krisiloff, 19, makes his Busch series debut this weekend at Milwaukee for Hendrick Motorsports. He is a part of the team's driver development program and has competed in six ARCA races, finishing a season-best fifth at Michigan last week. ... Gillian Zucker has been selected as the president of California Speedway, replacing Bill Miller, who announced his resignation in March. Zucker had been vice president of business operations and development at Daytona International Speedway.