Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Qualifying for today's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 was canceled by fog, but things look bright for Jeff Gordon, who starts on the pole because he's the series points leader.
The starting grid was set by points standings.
"I think we had a good car for the pole based on our record here in the past, and I would have liked to have given it a shot," Gordon said. "But I'm pretty happy with the outcome either way."
Statistically, Gordon is as qualified as anyone to start in front on the track "Too Tough to Tame." He has won five of the past 11 races at Darlington, and his starting average of seventh is tops among active drivers. Being on the pole is an advantage, he said.
"The way I like to drive a car around this place and the track characteristics, the way it eats the tires up, if you can be up front and have track position, you can save your tires a little bit," Gordon said.
Bill Elliott, tied with Gordon for most Darlington wins among active drivers with five, agrees that managing tires and staying out of trouble are key on NASCAR's oldest speedway.
"I enjoy these places where you do a lot of slipping and sliding," said Elliott, who starts seventh. "You tend to get separated and get into your own little zone. It's comes down to how well you get your car worked out compared to everybody else."
Most drivers and crew members said that even though qualifying was scrapped, they're still in favor of the shortened, two-day schedule that is in effect at Rockingham and Darlington this season.
Drivers got about 90 minutes of practice in before the Busch Grand National SunCom 200.
HANS: NASCAR recommends the Head and Neck Support device for its drivers, but has no plans to mandate that or any such safety device to Winston Cup teams.
NASCAR president Mike Helton said driver's physiques are so different that to order the HANS in every case "could create an environment that is actually less safe than what it is."
TODAY ON TV/RADIO: NASCAR, Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, 12:30, Ch. 13, WQYK-AM 1010.