Terry Labonte wins NASCAR pole

May 2, 2003 at 7:40 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., May 2 (UPI) -- Veteran Terry Labonte captured his first pole in three seasons Friday, taking the top spot for Saturday night's NASCAR Winston Cup Pontiac Excitement 400 on a slick Richmond International Raceway.

The 46-year-old will start from the top position for the first time since April 2, 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway after averaging 126.511 miles per hour around the 3/4-mile track in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"We had a good lap and a good time and came out on top," he said.

Labonte captured his fourth pole at the raceway and the 27th of his career. He also has succes in the actual race at Richmond, winning four times.

"It really helps if your car works good," said Labonte, who last won here in 1998. "The times that I've been to victory lane, that's what I had."

Labonte's best finish in 10 races this season has been a fifth at the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 6.

Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Joe Nemechek, qualified second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was the fastest in practice, and Bobby Labonte for a Chevrolet sweep of the top four positions.

Ryan Newman broke a potential top-five Chevrolet lineup by taking fifth in a Dodge Intrepid.

"Those Chevys are pretty good everywhere, so that's not a big surprise," said Newman, who has won two poles this season and has qualified in the top five in eight of the past nine races.

"We ran faster than we did in practice, but that's about what we figured we'd run based on practice. We'll see what it's like in race trim now."

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, two-time defending champion Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson qualified sixth through 10th. Busch had the only Ford Taurus in the top 10.

Stewart won the race last season after starting from the back of the 43-car field due to a prerace engine change.

Last year's 400-lap night race was stopped by rain on May 4 and finished the following afternoon. Drivers also griped about the track as the race was slowed by 14 cautions for 103 laps.

The track again caused problems Thursday in qualifying for the Busch Series, which was delayed four hours after water seeped onto the track between turns 1 and 2. Heavy rain Wednesday night contributed to the problem.

The wet conditions may have been the source of Jerry Nadeau's troubles Friday as the back end of his Pontiac Grand Prix broke loose, hitting the wall on the driver's side between turns 1 and 2.

The 32-year-old Nadeau had to be cut from the car and was airlifted to the Medical College of Virginia with "potential for serious injuries," according to track doctors.

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