Saturday, July 10, 2004

Gordon has pole, track record

First to capture four consecutive poles since Elliott in 1985

The Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. - Jeff Gordon is on such an unbelievable streak even he's amazed by it.

Gordon won his fourth consecutive pole on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit Friday afternoon, shattering the track record at the Tropicana 400 with a lap of 186.942 mph. That's more than 2 miles faster than the previous mark of 184.786 mph set last year by Tony Stewart.

"I've been very fortunate to have some good streaks along the way, but this streak is pretty amazing right now," said Gordon, who is looking for his third consecutive victory Sunday. "I just want to maintain this one as long as I can."

Gordon is the first driver to win four straight poles since Bill Elliott in 1985. The victory leaves him one shy of the NASCAR record, and he could match it in two weeks at Loudon, N.H.

He ran one lap in 28.886 seconds, beating the early standard of 186.871 mph set by rookie Kasey Kahne, and decided that was all he needed. He didn't even bother taking a second lap.

It's the 51st pole of Gordon's career, tying Bobby Isaac for seventh on the career list. It's his 12th top-10 start of the season.

BUSCH SERIES: Todd Szegedy is seeing orange after his first try at Busch Series qualifying.


Szegedy was coming out of turn four on his first lap of qualifying for the Tropicana Twister 300 on Friday when he saw a "big orange thing." An inflatable orange, 30 feet in diameter and weighing 60 pounds, had snapped off its tethers in high winds and was rolling slowly toward him on the track at Chicagoland Speedway.

Szegedy squeezed by the orange without incident and then pulled off the track. His attempt was wiped out, and he finished 12th when qualifying resumed after an almost two-hour rain delay.

Defending champion Bobby Hamilton Jr. ran away with the pole just as he did for last year's race at the 1 1/2-mile D-shaped oval. Hamilton set a Busch track record with a lap at 183.611 mph, more than a mile faster than Kyle Busch.

It was Hamilton's first pole of the year and the fourth of his career.

Busch was second in qualifying at 182.125 mph. Joe Nemechek qualified third at 182.088 mph.

PETTY INJURED: Kyle Petty's son was hit by a car while riding a motorcycle, breaking both his ankles. Austin Petty, 22, was hit near Level Cross, N.C., on Thursday night and taken to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro.

CHAMP CAR: Paul Tracy stayed far away from nemesis Alex Tagliani and took the provisional pole position for the Toronto Molson Indy.

The hometown favorite, who won the race from the pole last year and also won here in 1993, turned a fast lap of 59.407 seconds (106.351 mph) on his sixth of 14 laps around the 1.775-mile, 11-turn temporary street course on the edge of downtown Toronto.

Sebastien Bourdais did come within 0.003 seconds of the leader, turning a lap of 59.410 (106.346).

FORMULA ONE: Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen ran the fastest practice laps for the British Grand Prix, with Michael Schumacher just off the pace. Schumacher was second to Ferrari teammate Barrichello in the first practice, then third to McLaren's Raikkonen in the second session heading into today's qualifying in Silverstone, England.

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