Jeremy Mayfield needs more than a victory at Dover International Speedway in Delaware to get back in the thick of the Nextel Cup championship race.
With his title hopes seriously damaged a week ago, Mayfield will try to use today's MBNA America 400 to get back in the chase. He crashed last Sunday in New Hampshire after Robby Gordon intentionally spun Greg Biffle.
A 35th-place finish left Mayfield 142 points behind co-leaders Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. after the first of 10 races among the championship contenders. Lost were valuable points and great momentum achieved a week earlier when Mayfield qualified for title contention with a victory in Richmond.
"I think we're going to have to do that every week from here on out to try to rebound from that thing," Mayfield said Friday after winning the pole for today's race. "When the going gets tough, we feel like we perform our best."
But Mayfield won't curse his bad luck.
"We kind of like being the underdog," he said. "We're going to fight it out to the end."
Today, he won't qualify as anything but the favorite after taking the pole at the Monster Mile with a lap at 159.405 mph. That gave him a qualifying sweep this year on the high-banked concrete oval.
Busch, who won the Sylvania 300, qualified 13th. Earnhardt wound up 16th on the 43-car grid.
Ryan Newman, like Mayfield unlucky in New Hampshire, where he blew an engine late in the race, was second-fastest. His Dodge got around the track at 159.018.
A surprising third in qualifying was rookie Brian Vickers. He did it in a backup car after crashing in practice. His Chevrolet went 158.346. Elliott Sadler, sixth in the points race, qualified fourth in a Ford at 158.249.
Michael Waltrip and former series champions Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace held down the next three spots. Reigning series champion and top 10 racer Matt Kenseth was next.
Jimmie Johnson, also in the championship chase, qualified ninth, followed by Jamie McMurray.
Mark Martin, who won at Dover for the fourth time in June, goes from the 12th spot. Jeff Gordon, also a four-time Dover winner will start 21st. Gordon is nine points off the lead, a point ahead of Kenseth.
Tony Stewart, who also fell far back in the chase when he was involved secondarily in the Robby Gordon-Biffle spat, starts 23rd.
* BUSCH SERIES: Points leader Martin Truex Jr. took the lead with 12 laps to go and drove to an easy victory yesterday in the $1 million race at Dover International Speedway.
The win in the Stacker 200 was the fifth of the year for Truex, tying him with rookie Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle for the most on the circuit. It also was the fifth in the career of Truex and increased his points lead over Busch to 152 after 27 of 34 races.
Mike McLaughlin was second in a Ford and Kasey Kahne wound up third in a Dodge, followed by the Chevys of Jason Leffler and Johnny Sauter.
* FORMULA ONE: In Shanghai, seven-time series champion Michael Schumacher was barely five seconds into his qualifying lap for today's Chinese Grand Prix and just starting the first turn when he lost control and went into the gravel. He hadn't spun out in qualifying in 210 Formula One races.
Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello earned the pole position, the 12th of his career. Barrichello was timed in 1 minute 34.012 seconds on the 3.388-mile circuit. Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren was second at 1:34.178. Jenson Button of BAR-Honda was third in 1:34.295.
Schumacher will start from the next-to-last row, his worst starting position with Ferrari.