Burton wins another pole

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Indianapolis - Jeff Burton and rookie Clint Bowyer gave Richard Childress Racing a sweep of the front row Saturday in qualifying for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Burton, who has driven in each of the 12 previous NASCAR races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway without qualifying higher than 16th, made an early lap of 182.778 mph stand up for his third pole of the season and only the fifth of a career that began in 1993.

"I think I left a little bit out there," said Burton, who along with Bowyer had to leave the track immediately after the Nextel Cup time trials to practice for Saturday night's Busch Series race at nearby O'Reilly Raceway Park.

Burton was the second of 50 drivers who tried to qualify for the 43 Brickyard starting spots, so he didn't really know what it was going to take to stay on top with the track getting hotter and more slippery as the session went on.

"I ran as hard as I thought I could run and come back," Burton said. "I was a little bit conservative in a few places that if somebody has a little more confidence, they might be able to do better than that."

Nobody did.

Bowyer went out seventh and posted a lap of 182.771. Kurt Busch, who was 25th in the qualifying line, wound up third at 182.752. The top three laps were separated by just seven-thousandths of a second.

"Qualifying is so big at Indy and this is my first time being here," Bowyer said. "I wanted to start up front. Burton got me a little bit but, hey, hat's off to everyone at RCR and everyone who worked on my Chevrolet. We're going to be a force to be reckoned with."
Kasey Kahne, the last driver to qualify, was fourth at 182.441, followed by series points leader Jimmie Johnson at 182.238 and rookie J.J. Yeley, whose only previous race here was the 1998 Indianapolis 500, at 182.171.

Rounding out the top 10 were Greg Biffle at 182.065, Ryan Newman at 181.925, Robby Gordon at 181.877 and Kevin Harvick, the third Childress driver, at 181.734.

Four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon qualified 16th while defending series champion and race winner Tony Stewart was 32nd. Neither seemed too concerned about where he qualified.
"Anything can happen here at Indianapolis," Gordon said. "We've shown that in the past. We've won races here when we weren't a factor throughout the race."

"I'm not too worried about the qualifying run," Stewart said. "It just means we'll have to pass a lot of cars, which makes it fun. We started 22nd last year and worked our way up there with no problem."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., vying for the 10th and final spot in the Chase for the championship with Gordon and Stewart, will start 31st.

"I ain't a good qualifier, especially here for some reason," Junior said. "We've got a long race. We'll be fine."

The top 35 cars in team owner points are guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. Among the drivers who had to make it in on speed, 2002 Brickyard winner Bill Elliott was fourth fastest. Elliott, a former series champion and now a part-time driver, will start 26th.

Also making the race on speed, barely, was Boris Said, who will make his third start of the season from 43rd. Said, a road racing specialist trying to make the transition to the ovals, was the surprise last month at Daytona, winning the pole and finishing fourth in the race.

"It's so nerve-racking," said Said, who brushed the wall twice in Friday's practice. "When you're not in the top 35 in points, it's just so hard to get it done in one lap. But that was our best lap of the weekend and the best lap I've run since we tested here (last month)."

Among the drivers who didn't make the field was two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, who also failed to qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 in May at Charlotte. Waltrip bought a ride in that race from Derrike Cope, who had qualified for the field.

This time, Waltrip most likely will spend his Sunday afternoon in the TV booth, working as part of TNT's announcing team.

Brickyard 400

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