Joe Nemechek has rediscovered that old qualifying magic.
"Front Row Joe" went four years without winning a pole, but has earned two in a row after leading qualifying yesterday for the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
The eighth pole of his career wasn't easy, though.
"That's as close as you can be to out of control and still have control of the racecar," Nemechek said after taking the starting spot for tomorrow's Banquet 400 with a lap of 180.156 mph.
Nemechek, whose pole last week was his first since October 2000, ended the drought in Talladega, Ala. He went on to finish seventh in the race, leaving him 24th in the series standings.
"We've been good all year," said Nemechek, who drives a Chevrolet. "Our finishes haven't shown how good we've been, but we're on a roll now."
It is the first time Nemechek has won two straight poles.
Evernham Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield were the closest to him. Rookie Kahne, also second in Busch Series qualifying earlier in the day, turned a lap of 179.253 mph.
Mayfield, fastest of the 10 drivers racing for the Nextel Cup championship, ran 179.188 mph.
Another title contender, Jimmie Johnson, was next at 179.045 mph, followed by Bobby Labonte at 178.891 mph, Greg Biffle at 178.453 mph, and contenders Ryan Newman, the defending race winner, at 178.424 mph and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 178.389 mph.
Earnhardt will go into tomorrow's race trailing series leader Kurt Busch by 12 points after NASCAR docked him 25 earlier this week for cursing during a live TV interview after his victory at Talladega.
Earnhardt was happy with his qualifying effort after struggling on similar 11/2-mile ovals earlier this year. And he's still smarting from being knocked out of first place by NASCAR's penalty with seven of 10 races remaining in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
"What I did was not correct, but I don't think it's fair to take points off the scoreboard," Earnhardt said. "Still, we've got a lot of racing left to do and we'll try to make sure those 25 points don't make any difference when it's over."
* FORMULA ONE: A typhoon forecast to hit Suzuka, Japan, forced organizers to abandon the regular qualifying format for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Qualifying will be held before tomorrow's race.
-- From News Services