Rain Makes Gordon An Unqualified Success
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Martinsville, Va. – Jeff Gordon’s good Martinsville Speedway fortunes continued Friday as he inherited the pole for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 after rain washed out qualifying.
The line-up for Sunday was set according to the NASCAR rule book, with positions being allotted according to car-owner points and qualifying attempts.
Gordon, who was third-fastest in practice, moved to the pole because he’s the Sprint Cup Series points leader , and he’ll also get the all-important first pit stall, which has proven to be a big advantage in previous Martinsville races. Still, he said he was running good enough to get the top stall anyway.
That first pit stall offers a straight shot onto the track while the rest are tight and drivers have to spend valuable seconds getting in and out of them.
“Rain or shine we had a shot at getting it,” said Gordon, a seven-time Martinsville winner. “It’s a good time for us to be leading the points.”
But Gordon cautioned that it’s not like he has a lock on Sunday’s race.
“Pit strategy can change what’s going on in this race,” he said, pointing out that he’s only gotten two wins from the pole.
With the skies overcast and a forecast for rain, most Sprint Cup race teams spent Friday’s practice session at Martinsville Speedway with their cars in race trim.
David Ragan, 23rd in practice, was among those who worked on race set-ups in practice. His crew correctly predicted the weather.
“I’m glad it didn’t come back to bite us,” he said.
Clint Bowyer, who will start third on Sunday, said that for once he was looking forward to qualifying at Martinsville. He said a test session at “Little Rock,” the test track adjacent to Rockingham Speedway that was built to resemble the real Martinsville, paid off for him and his No. 33 team.
“I’ve got as good a car as I’ve ever had here,” he said.
Kurt Busch, who will start second and get the second pick of pit stalls, said the big question unanswered is whether the weather will open up and allow more testing Saturday.
“All the guys around us in points get to start up front,” Busch said. “I just hope we can maintain the pace.”
He said the track position he’ll get is more important because in his eyes the only really good pit stall is the first one in the line, which will go to Gordon.
“It’s only going to make Jeff Gordon stronger,” Busch said.
The big loser was Sterling Marlin, who was 13th fastest in practice, best of the go-or-go-home drivers. But Marlin had to go home anyway because his car owner, James Finch, and Todd Bodine’s owner, Larry Gunselman, are tied in car owner points, but Gunselman gets the spot because the tie-breaker is race finishes and his best is a 37th to Finch’s 40th.No Comment