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Record could surface in Richmond

Wire services
Published May 13, 2004

RICHMOND, Va. - A new asphalt surface at Richmond International Raceway should result in a record qualifying speed.

"The pole record will fall for sure," said Jeff Gordon, trying for his third consecutive Nextel Cup victory Saturday night in the Chevy American Revolution 400.

The track is smoother and faster than ever, leaving the development of a second racing groove as the biggest question heading into this weekend's NASCAR events.

"It's going to be history, I can tell you that right now," Elliott Sadler said of Ward Burton's 2-year-old qualifying record.

Last week, Sadler and about 20 other drivers tested on the fresh blacktop.

Sadler easily beat Burton's qualifying speed of 127.389 mph while running in a racing setup rather than a qualifying setup. Gordon said he also beat Burton's mark, and did it on tires he'd been using for 30 laps.

The resurfacing of the three-quarter-mile oval removed bumps that were more of a nuisance to IRL cars, which race here next month.

Still, going fast in a qualifying groove used by everyone is one thing, and going fast while racing against 42 other cars is quite another.

Tony Stewart, who has three career Cup victories and two in truck races at Richmond, said the faster the cars are going, the harder it will be to pass because speed makes aerodynamics more of a factor than at a normal short-track race.

"I'm not sure the racing will be as good as everybody hopes, but the good thing is that as long as the surface holds up throughout the weekend, it'll be a surface that'll last for a very long time and probably only get better with age," Stewart said.

NADEAU BACK, NOT ON TRACK: Jerry Nadeau is returning to Richmond International Raceway, though he won't be on the track. Saturday's race will be the first NASCAR event Nadeau has attended this season. He still is recovering from the serious head injuries he received in a crash at Richmond last May while driving the car now piloted by Joe Nemechek.

"I'm really looking forward to being with the team," he said. "Hopefully, I can bring Joe and the guys some luck."

INDIANAPOLIS 500: The race still is five cars short of its traditional 33-car field, but Indy Racing League officials aren't worrying yet. They believe there will be enough additions in the next nine days to avoid a short starting grid for the first time since 1947.

"I'm picking up a lot of confidence internally and from the garage area," league spokesman John Griffin said.

WORLD SPORTS CARS: Two-time driving champion Wayne Taylor has a dilemma: His next race is in Canada - the same weekend as his son Jason's bar mitzvah in Florida. His next racing weekend is May 21-23 at Mount Tremblant in Quebec, round four of the Rolex Series. Jason's celebration is that weekend, too.

The plan is for Taylor and co-driver Max Angelelli to spend that Friday and part of Saturday in Orlando, taking part in the family celebration before flying to Mount Tremblant for Sunday's race. Emanuel Collard of France, their co-driver in February in the 24-hour race at Daytona, will be the stand-in, practicing and qualifying the car.

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