Joe Nemechek withstood a rain delay yesterday to win his first pole of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.
He enters the GFS Marketplace 400 today in 17th place in the points standings, meaning he most likely won't be in the Chase for the Cup. Four races remain before the competition.
"I hope this is a turn for our luck for the season," said Nemechek, who drove his Chevrolet at 191.581 mph. "We're looking forward to good things."
Jeff Gordon, fighting to make the Chase for the Cup, will start second. Kasey Kahne will go third and Kyle Busch fourth.
Season points leader Tony Stewart qualified 36th at 187.583 mph. Stewart has won only one pole this season, but he has won five of his last seven starts. He holds a 105-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 10th.
"We're trying to win a championship," Stewart said. The car "was all right. I'm pretty excited and I think it's going to be good for [today]."
A shower hit the track after 43 of 48 drivers had made their qualifying runs, leading to a nearly one-hour delay. If rain had washed out qualifying, NASCAR would have set the field by the points standings, and Nemechek would have started near the middle of the pack.
"At first I thought I was going to get robbed," he said.
* FORMULA ONE: Kimi Raikkonen won the pole for the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, with Michael Schumacher among the half-dozen drivers to slide off the twisting, dusty track at Formula One's newest venue.
Raikkonen, driving for McLaren-Mercedes, will be joined in the front row for the inaugural race today by Giancarlo Fisichella of Renault.
"It might be tricky, but we'll see how it goes," Raikkonen said.
Fernando Alonso of Renault, the standings leader who is 26 points ahead of Raikkonen, is in the second row with Juan Pablo Montoya of McLaren. Jarno Trulli of Toyota and Nick Heidfeld of Williams-BMW will start from the third row.
Raikkonen, who won the last race three weeks ago in Hungary, captured his fifth pole of the season and eighth of his career. The Finn was last to go in qualifying and was timed in 1 minute 26.797 seconds.
With two Renaults in the top three, Alonso seemed confident leading to the only new event this season on the Formula One calendar. He has won six races this season and Raikkonen four.
Alonso suspects this will be the most difficult race of the season.
"I think so," the Spaniard said. "There are a few corners that are really, really special."
* IRL: At the Honda Indy 225 in Fountain, Colo., Helio Castroneves earned his first pole in nearly two years, edging teammate Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.0023 of a second for the Marlboro Team Penske's third straight pole on short tracks. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner finished the mile tri-oval in 20.5218 seconds (175.423 mph), earning his first pole since October 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I feel better because you basically have to drive the car," Castroneves said. "At some of the other tracks, you're just along for the ride. I guess, especially at the short ovals, we've been working extremely hard and our best chance of seeing victory and running really, really fast is at those tracks. I'm very happy to see both cars sitting on the front row."
Rookie sensation Danica Patrick had the day's fastest practice time, finishing in 20.546 seconds during the second session. But when the temperatures cooled and the wind switched in qualifying, her team had trouble getting the setup right, ending up fifth at 20.6435 seconds.