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Water on track but Waltrip on BGN pole

Associated Press
Published May 2, 2003

RICHMOND, Va. - Michael Waltrip won the pole for the Busch series race after water on the surface at Richmond International Raceway delayed qualifying for nearly four hours Thursday.

It was the Winston Cup regular's 14th career Busch pole and fifth on the three-quarter-mile oval where he won in 1990.

The session was delayed for 3 hours, 40 minutes because water from recent rainfall was seeping onto the track. The stoppage came after Dion Ciccarelli and Jason Rudd, the first two drivers to make runs, crashed before completing a lap.

After Rudd's crash, officials inspected the track, detected the water and began spreading drying agents in the areas where water was visible. They also cut narrow grooves in the surface, trying to disperse the water.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said the decision to qualify was made after consultation with several drivers, who were split on what to do.

"The whole idea is we have 49 cars here," he said after qualifying resumed. "We want all of them to have an opportunity to make the race."

Waltrip turned a fast lap of 125.523 mph in a Chevrolet to win the top spot on the grid for tonight's Hardee's 250.

"I was a little surprised that we went that fast," he said. "I messed up three and four a little bit. Generally, if you mess up a turn, you can't get a pole. It's too tight, especially on a short track."

Waiting out the delay wasn't a problem, said the two-time and reigning Daytona 500 champion, who turned 40 Wednesday night.

"That's one advantage about being old," he said. "Nothing bothers me."

Defending race champion Jason Keller took the outside of the front row in a Ford. Next came the Chevys of Stacy Compton, Shane Hmiel, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. Scott Riggs was seventh in a Ford. Kasey Kahne's Ford and the Chevys of Randy LaJoie and Johnny Sauter completed the top 10.

With more rain in the forecast for the weekend, Hunter said NASCAR and track officials would consider other measures, including cutting vertical 6-inch-wide grooves in the track, allowing the water to drain and filling the gaps with concrete.

Drainage ditches had to be dug in June when the surface at Pocono started oozing water after days of heavy rain. Texas Motor Speedway had a similar problem several years ago.

Only one other driver, Ashton Lewis, had problems in the session. He spun in second turn before taking the green flag for his first lap.

TRACK RESURFACED: New Hampshire International Speedway was repaved, well in advance of the Winston Cup race set for July 20. Track management was criticized after July's race because Turns 3 and 4 proved extremely slick. The turns were resurfaced in April 2002 and had to be redone in June, only three weeks before the race. Bob Bahre, owner of the Loudon track, ordered the resurfacing even though the second Cup race there in September was contested without complaint.

ONE-RACE DEAL: Casey Atwood is rejoining car owner Ray Evernham for a one-race Winston Cup deal next month at Pocono Raceway. Atwood will drive the No. 91 Dodge Intrepid in the Pocono 500 on June 8.

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