Johnson always a threat at Dover

Originally Published: June 2, 2005
Associated Press

DOVER, Del. – Even rain couldn't slow the momentum of Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, who was awarded the pole when qualifying was rained out Friday at Dover International Speedway.

The front-row start for Johnson came just five days after he became the only driver to win three straight Coca-Cola 600s. That can't be good news for the others, who also move from Lowe's Motor Speedway to The Monster Mile.

Johnson knows how to win at both places, having swept the events two years ago on this high-banked concrete oval. He will line up in the top spot for the first time this season, holding a 71-point advantage over Greg Biffle at the start of Sunday's MBNA 400.

Biffle got the outside of the front row on the basis of car-owner points.

The first-row alignment is a microcosm of the first 12 races this season on NSACAR's elite circuit. Johnson has two of five victories by Hendrick Motorsports and Biffle three of five by Roush Racing.

Elliott Sadler will start third alongside Ryan Newman, who has won three of the last four Dover races. The third row belongs to Gordon, a four-time Dover winner tied with Biffle for the most victories this season, and Tony Stewart, who won both races here in 2002.

Kevin Harvick will start seventh, flanked by Carl Edwards. Jamie McMurray and series champion Kurt Busch round out the top 10.

The race is the halfway mark to the 26-race cut, when the top 10 drivers will compete for the title.

Daylong damper
The daylong downpour not only caused cancelation of Nextel Cup qualifying. Also lost was qualifying for Saturday's Busch Series race and the Craftsman Truck race.

The Busch washout gave the pole to points-leader Carl Edwards. Fellow Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick was given the other front-row spot. Busch series regular Clint Bowyer will go from the second row, inside Greg Biffle.

Edwards doesn't know if the gift will mean much when they wave the green flag on Saturday.

"The biggest thing to me is that the rubber will be washed off the track," he said. "I think from when we tested here, until when we practiced yesterday, the track changed a lot with rubber."

The Truck Series race was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday as part of a doubleheader with the Busch event. David Starr won the pole in qualifying Thursday.

Martin the Truckster
Mark Martin's final season on the Nextel Cup probably won't be his last on the NASCAR circuit if Roush Racing obtains a sponsor for him in the Craftsman Truck Series.

"I'm excited about 2006 racing a Jack Roush truck in the Truck Series full time," Martin said Friday at Dover International Speedway.

On Sunday, he'll try to become the only active driver to win five races at Dover. He's the defending champion of the MBNA 400.

Martin ruled out a return to the Nextel Cup next season, saying he would not be sharing a ride with the retiring Rusty Wallace or any other driver. He prefers to picture himself in somewhat of a development role for Roush, his car owner since 1988.

But Martin said title aspirations played no role in his decision to race a truck. In 20 years on the Nextel Cup circuit, he has finished second in points four times.

"From now on in my racing career, I'm going to do what I want to do," said the 46-year-old driver from Batesville, Ark. "I look forward to being in the seat for many years."

Martin likes the Truck schedule, which would give him an additional 13 weeks off to spend with his family. But he plans to approach the competition with the same desire that has made him one of the great racers of his time.

"It looks like fun racing," Martin explained. "Every driver that I talk to that races that series loves it."

David Pearson is the only driver to have two pole-race sweeps in one season, turning the double in 1973. ... Ken Schrader got the last of his four career victories 14 years ago in the June race at Dover, and is winless in his last 455 starts. ... Oldsmobile, which no longer campaigns cars on the NASCAR circuit, got its last victory when Harry Gant won at Dover in the spring of 1992. That day, he also became the oldest driver to win a 500-mile race, getting to Victory Lane at the age of 52 years, 142 days. ... Hendrick Motorsports has the most Dover victories with nine. Four came from Jeff Gordon, two from Jimmie Johnson, and one each from Ricky Rudd, Schrader and Geoff Bodine. ... No race at Dover has been rained out. The only blemish on the record came in the spring event in 1975. The race started on a Sunday, when 140 laps were run. The other 360 were completed the next day.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press