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Gordon takes pole at Dover, ends drought

In one of those hard-to-believe statistics except for maybe the most diehard Gordon fans, the four-time NASCAR champion had gone 47 races without a pole: the longest drought of his career.

By TIMES WIRES
Published September 23, 2006


DOVER, Del. - Jeff Gordon felt like a rookie.

In one of those hard-to-believe statistics except for maybe the most diehard Gordon fans, the four-time NASCAR champion had gone 47 races without a pole: the longest drought of his career.

All it took was a trip to top sponsor DuPont's back yard to put him back on top. Gordon took the top spot with a lap of 156.162 mph Friday at Dover International Speedway, his first pole since June 24, 2005, on the road course at Sonoma.

"It feels like my first pole ever," Gordon said. "When it goes by for a while, you feel like you lost that magic touch or that combination that it took to get on poles."

Gordon is fourth in the points standings heading into the second race, the Dover 400, of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. Maybe a new chassis for the No. 24 Chevrolet this weekend helped.

"(It's) really the best car we have out there right now for this type of race track," he said.

Other than Gordon, it wasn't really a strong qualifying effort for the other nine drivers in the Chase. Series leader Kevin Harvick is starting 25th. Matt Kenseth enters third and starts third. Mark Martin is the only other driver in the top 10 of the points standings (sixth) who is starting on the first five rows (ninth).

Kyle Busch, the last of the 10 in the standings, is in 27th position.

Joining Gordon on the front row is Scott Riggs, who went 156.060 mph to take second. Kenseth and Ryan Newman, who won the pole at this course in June, complete the second row.

But Riggs said he damaged his engine in the No. 10 Dodge after he revved it too much. He'll likely have to change the engine, which would force him to start in the rear of the field.

Gordon, who complained Friday that Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers was too aggressive and cost him time in New Hampshire, won his 55th pole to tie Bill Elliott for sixth on the career list. Gordon has won a pole for 14 straight seasons.

"I can name a long list of reasons why it's so special right now," said Gordon, who missed the 2005 Chase. "Obviously with the Chase, having momentum is good."

Brandon born Denny Hamlin, who trails Harvick by 35 points in the standings, starts 23rd.

CHAMP: Dan Clarke turned a lap of 126.585 mph in the first qualifying session, guaranteeing him a front-row starting spot in Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America. The final field will be set in a second qualifying session today. ... Injured driver Cristiano da Matta flew home to Miami as he continues to recover from a head injury sustained in an accident last month. Da Matta, 33, had been recovering at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, Wis., since the Aug. 3 accident when his car collided with a deer that wandered onto the track during a test session at Road America.

NHRA: Mike Ashley led Funny Car qualifying in the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas, completing his quarter-mile run in 4.799 seconds at a top speed of 314.53 mph in his Dodge Stratus. Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta and reigning Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson led their divisions.

ARREST: A former NHRA driver was arrested after being accused of repeatedly molesting a boy over several years. Gene Snow surrendered to the Tarrant County (Texas) Sheriff's Office on Sept. 5 after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a Sheriff's Office spokesman said. Snow, 69, posted $25,000 bail and was released the same day. Snow, known as "The Snowman" during his racing days, is listed on the NHRA's Web site as one the top 50 drivers in the organization's history.