Johnson takes pole at Kansas with record run

Saturday, October 4, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Jimmie Johnson broke the track qualifying record Friday at Kansas Speedway to take the pole for Sunday's Banquet 400.

Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth, meanwhile, continued his recent struggles and had to rely on a provisional starting position for a second straight week.

Johnson's quick lap of 180.373 mph in a Chevrolet broke the year-old mark of 177.924 mph by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The lap around the 1 1/2-mile tri-oval gave Johnson his second pole of the season.

Seventeen other drivers also broke that record, aided by cool temperatures that hovered in the mid-60s all afternoon.

"A couple of things led to the faster times," said Johnson, who has won three times this year but lost his engine and finished 34th last week at Talladega Superspeedway. "The colder weather was one, and all these teams are working harder and harder to find speed."

When they do, Johnson said, NASCAR will find a way to slow them down.

"It's just a constant game of cat and mouse," he said. "It's just finding somewhere new to look. They are tightening up the bodies so much more on us for next year that we're probably going to start off the year a little slower."

Kenseth, who leads Kevin Harvick by 354 points and Earnhardt by 384, crashed in practice and turned in a disappointing lap of 175.547 in qualifying.

Last week, he blew an engine and finished 33rd after starting 37th.

"I don't like to see Matt go sliding into the wall, whether it was at the first of the year or now," said Earnhardt, who qualified third Friday behind Johnson and Mike Skinner. "Numerically, we're still in the mix, but we don't sit there every week and wait for Matt to blow up or smash into the wall."

Bobby Labonte qualified fourth as Chevrolets took three of the top four spots. Skinner is in a Pontiac.

After Labonte came Rusty Wallace, Jason Leffler, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Jeff Green and Elliott Sadler.

"I made a few technical errors with my entry into Turn 3, but I don't know how much difference that would have made," said Earnhardt, who went 179.581 said. "Probably not enough to beat Jimmie or Mike, but I was real happy with the lap."

Busch Series

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Michael Waltrip won his second straight Busch Series pole at 3-year-old Kansas Speedway with a record-setting qualifying run Friday.

Fresh off a victory in his Winston Cup car last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Waltrip turned in a fast lap of 178.365 mph in his Chevrolet in qualifying for Saturday's Mr. Goodcents 300.

He and 23 other drivers broke his year-old qualifying mark of 173.831 mph on the 1 1/2-mile tri-oval. It was his second pole of the season in NASCAR's second-tier series.

Waltrip will start alongside Kasey Kahne.

He took the outside of the front row with a lap of 177.743 in his Ford.

David Green qualified third, with Mike Bliss on the outside of the second row. They were followed by Stacy Compton, Casey Mears, Tony Raines, Scott Riggs, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Joe Nemechek.

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