Youthful drivers dominate WC qualifying

Saturday, April 27, 2002

FONTANA, Calif. -- Youth conquered all Friday in qualifying for the NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway.

Twentysomethings Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch were at the top Friday as five Winston Cup drivers broke the stock-car qualifying record on the 2-mile oval built by Roger Penske, Newman's car owner.

The 24-year-old Newman, battling 26-year-old Jimmie Johnson for rookie of the year honors in the Winston Cup Series, grabbed his second career pole with a lap of 187.432 mph.

Busch, 23 and in his second season in NASCAR's top series, made it a Ford sweep of the front row at 187.412, followed by the Taurus of Dale Jarrett at 186.853 and the Chevrolets of Johnson at 186.620 and 31-year-old Jerry Nadeau at 186.244.

All of them surpassed the previous record of 186.061, set in 2000 by Mike Skinner.

With Elliott Sadler and Dale Earnhardt Jr., a pair of 27-year-olds, seventh and ninth, half the top 10 for Sunday's 500-mile race is made up of NASCAR's young guns.

"It's just coincidence," Newman said. "There's a bigger quantity of young drivers now and it's not so unusual that sometimes there's a bunch near the top."

The 45-year-old Jarrett, a former series champion, didn't necessarily agree with Newman's assessment.

"That's becoming a common thing, starting behind these guys," Jarrett said. "Usually, I'm way behind them. They've got good cars and know what to do with them.

"I definitely bumped up the average in the top five when I got out there."

Intermittent rain Friday washed out qualifying for the Auto Club 300 Busch Series race on Saturday and postponed Winston Cup qualifying until 4 p.m. PDT.

By the time the last of the 46 cars that ran qualifying laps had been on the track, the wind had picked up, temperatures dropped into the mid-50s and a heavy, gray overcast shadowed the track.

"It was a pretty drastic change and, when the weather changes like that, the whole performance of the car is different," said Newman, whose first pole came last May at Charlotte as he ran a limited Cup schedule.

"When conditions change like that, it also means the driver has to attack the track differently. The change was the same for everybody, but the way the drivers adapted to it was the difference."

Failing to make the race were Brendan Gaughan, Chad Little and Hermie Sadler.

BUSCH SERIES: Rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying Friday for the Auto Club 300 Busch Series race at California Speedway.

The 43-car lineup for Saturday's race was determined by season points, with series leader Jack Sprague starting from the pole, alongside runner-up Jason Keller.

Former series champions Jeff Green and Randy LaJoie will start from the second row.

-- From wire reports

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