Saturday, August 14, 2004

Johnson on Watkins Glen pole after qualifying is washed out



The Associated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - When Jeff Burton jumps into a Chevrolet for the first time next week, he expects to give Richard Childress Racing a solid effort at Michigan International Speedway.

Burton, a 17-time race winner in NASCAR's top series, will move from Roush Racing to the Childress team, where he will replace Dave Blaney. Burton has competed exclusively in Fords since 1993 and realizes it might take some time to feel comfortable in a Chevy.

"It better not take long - they're not going to wait for us," Burton said Friday at Watkins Glen International, where he'll take his last ride Sunday for Roush. "No matter what happens, they don't wait to hold these races for you."

Childress said no time will be wasted in an attempt to reduce the severity of Burton's learning curve.

"We're going to start bright and early Monday morning," the car owner said.

But that could be delayed if Sunday's Sirius at The Glen is postponed. The forecast is for rain from approaching Hurricane Charley, which would upset the Chevy indoctrination plan.

Weather took its toll Friday, when qualifying was rained out, putting Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson on the poll. Teammate Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner on the road course coming off a victory Sunday at Indianapolis, will start second as he tries for his fourth win in seven races and series-leading sixth overall.

Rain is expected today, meaning the cars could be denied practice time. Johnson would like the seat time but cherishes the gift pole.

"It's important to have track position here, and you can't ask for anything better than the position we're in," Johnson said.

CHAMP CAR: Champ Car series leader Sebastien Bourdais closed out a flurry of record-setting times, securing the provisional pole Friday in the first round of qualifying for the Grand Prix of Denver.

Bourdais also becomes the first driver in the modern era (since 1979) to open a year by qualifying in the top three spots in nine straight races.

Bourdais finished the 1.65-mile course in 1 minute, 0.413 seconds (98.740 mph) for the final of seven track records.

FORMULA ONE: Kimi Raikkonen turned in the quickest time in practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Friday, edging Formula One leader Michael Schumacher, who will be trying for a record 12th victory of the season in the race.

McLaren's Raikkonen clocked 1 minute, 20.884 seconds in the second practice session. Ferrari's Schumacher had the fastest time in the morning practice, clocking a 1:21.009.

Schumacher holds the record of 11 victories in a season, which he has accomplished twice.




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