NASCAR: Carpentier captures first pole
By Mike Harris
LOUDON, N.H. ó Rookie Patrick Carpentier grabbed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Canadian driver, whose last pole came in a Champ Car in 2004 on the road course in Laguna Seca, Calif., was among the drivers who had to wait out a nearly two-hour rain delay before getting a shot at qualifying for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
“It’s amazing,” said Carpentier, who took his first pole on an oval track with a fast lap was 129.776 mph. “The car was great. We made a couple of changes from this morning and the car just rotated beautifully through the middle of the corner. It was just stuck on the track. I’m real happy.
“Honestly, if I had won the first pole on a road course I wouldn’t be as happy,” he added. “I want to do well on the ovals because that is where they do most the racing in this series.”
The rain began while series points leader Kyle Busch, the 24th driver in the 45-car qualifying line, was on the mile oval. He completed one lap that was good for 16th best at that point before officials called him in.
The time trials were delayed for 1 hour, 54 minutes before resuming with Busch given a second chance to qualify, this time on a dry track. He was quicker, but still wound up 27th overall.
Although the track was very slick and there was little rubber remaining after the rain, several cars were faster than Reed Sorenson, the leader before the rain delay with a speed of 128.828 mph.
Kevin Harvick followed Busch onto the track and, despite nearly hitting the wall on his fast lap, took over the top spot with a lap of 128.976. Bobby Labonte then went out and took the top spot from Harvick with a lap of 129.059.
Labonte, a former Cup champion who hasn’t won a pole since April 2004, was pretty happy with the outside spot on the front row for Sunday’s race.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that fast with the track conditions what they were, so we’ excited to get a good lap and get a good starting spot.”
But it was Carpentier, one of the last drivers to make an attempt, who wound up on top in his 16th Cup race. His best previous Cup start was fourth last month at Richmond.
“If you’d have told me I would struggle on a road course last weekend (at Sonoma) and win the pole this week, I’d have told you you were crazy,” he said. “I was hoping it was going to rain so that we would make the race (on points). But it didn’t and we’re on the pole, so it’s pretty good.
“Hopefully, on Sunday, we get to start there for a while. But that will be the hard thing.”
Scott Riggs was fourth, also at 128.976, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 128.885, Sorenson, rookie Dario Franchitti at 128.824, Martin Truex Jr. at 128.645 and Matt Kenseth and A.J. Allmendinger, both at 128.624. Defending race winner Denny Hamlin was 12th.
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