Saturday, June 12, 2004

Nextel rookie Kahne races to fourth pole



The Associated Press

LONG POND, Pa. - Kasey Kahne put aside the disappointment of a wreck last weekend at Dover that cost him his first career victory and rebounded Friday to set a track record and claim the pole for Sunday's Pocono 500.

Kahne, driving a Dodge for Evernham Motorsports, turned a lap of 172.553 mph at Pocono International Raceway for his fourth pole of the season, adding to efforts at Las Vegas, Darlington and California. He becomes the first rookie to win the pole at Pocono.

"The car was perfect. I couldn't believe it," Kahne said. "We were a little bit off in practice, but the car was better, I drove a little better. It's a difficult track. It takes some time learn."

Kahne proved to be a quick learner. He took test laps at the track last week under the watchful eye of Bill Elliott, whom he replaced on owner Ray Evernham's team after last year.

Kahne got wide on Turn 1 and crashed. Nothing major, but it taught him a few lessons about navigating the 2 1/2-mile triangular track.

His qualifying time broke Tony Stewart's record of 172.391 set in 2000, and he started to make up for a missed opportunity at Dover.

Kahne narrowly missed a 19-car pileup late in Sunday's race and was well on his way to the first victory of his Nextel Cup career at Dover International Speedway. Then, with oil on the racetrack, he wrecked with only 18 laps remaining.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking about it," Kahne said. "I pretty much get over it during the day, but when I go to sleep, it comes back in my mind. It wasn't fun. We did everything right that day. It was just circumstances."

Kahne's four poles lead NASCAR. He has four top-10 finishes, but none in his last six races, leaving him low in the points standings. Kahne is 12th - 438 points behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Another rookie, Brian Vickers, qualified second at Pocono in 172.308. Joe Nemechek was third in 172.183.

It's the first time two rookies have started 1-2 since Jimmy Johnson and Ryan Newman in 2002 at Richmond.

Mark Martin was fourth and Johnson fifth. Jeff Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield, Stewart, Greg Biffle and Dale Jarrett round out the top 10.

BUSCH SERIES: Martin Truex Jr. drove his Chevrolet to the pole for today's Federated Auto Parts 300 at Gladeville, Tenn. He ran a lap of 163.596 mph on Nashville Superspeedway's 1.33-mile concrete oval. It was Truex's second straight Busch Series pole on the track, and his fourth of the season.

Jason Leffler will start second, followed by Kyle Busch.

FORMULA ONE: Michael Schumacher led everyone in practice for the Canadian Grand Prix with a lap timed at 1 minute, 14.013 seconds, but that came in the one-hour morning session when he and Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello (1:14.291) dominated.

The afternoon session was considerably more competitive, with Japanese driver Takuma Sato turning the top lap of 1:14.086 in his BAR-Honda, followed by Renault's Fernando Alonso at 1:14.426.

This weekend

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP

Pocono 500

Schedule: Sunday, race (Ch. 19, 45, 1 p.m.)

Track: Pocono International

Raceway

Distance: 500 miles (200 laps)

NASCAR BUSCH

Featured Auto Parts 300

Schedule: Today, race (FX, 8 p.m.)

Track: Nashville Superspeedway

Distance: 300 miles (225 laps)

FORMULA ONE

Canadian Grand Prix

Schedule: Today, qualifying (Speed Channel, 1 p.m.); Sunday, race (Speed Channel, noon)

Track: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

Distance: 192.29 miles (70 laps)

INDY RACING LEAGUE

Bombardier 500

Schedule: Today, race (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Track: Texas Motor Speedway

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)




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