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MOTOR RACING

Rain washes out NASCAR qualifying at Talladega

Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin will start in front as field is set on points.

November 01, 2009|Wire Reports

Jimmie Johnson last started from the pole at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway in 2002, as the points leader, lined up next to Mark Martin.

He didn't even make it to the first lap.

In a bizarre prerace mishap as the drivers were warming up their tires, a problem with Martin's steering box caused him to run into Johnson. The two cars skidded into the infield grass, Johnson suffered damage to the front of his Chevrolet, and had dropped to the back of the field when the race began.

"Did you bring that same steering box back?" Jeff Gordon asked Martin on Saturday after rain washed out qualifying at Talladega.

The inclement weather led NASCAR to cancel the qualifying session and set the field for today's race on points -- which put Johnson and Martin side by side again, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon right behind them in the second row.

Gordon was only joking when he hinted at potential sabotage, but both he and Martin know Johnson needs to have a very bad day today for either to have a chance of challenging him for the Sprint Cup title.

The three-time defending series champion has a commanding points lead with only four races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, with Talladega as the last remaining obstacle in his path toward a record fourth consecutive title.

The fastest track in NASCAR is the worst of the 10 Chase venues for Johnson, who has one victory but an overall average finish of just 17.7 at Talladega. Because of the unpredictability of restrictor-plate racing, the unknowns facing him today have left Johnson admittedly struggling to sleep the last few days.

"Falling asleep lately has been difficult, I have to admit," Johnson said. "The brain wonders and thinks about a lot of different things. Especially when I come to a track like this."

The rain means all 12 Chase drivers will start at the front of the field, exactly where they want to be.

"The safest place really is leading," Johnson said.

NASCAR trucks

Kyle Busch got a generous bump from teammate Aric Almirola a few hundred yards from the finish to win the NASCAR Camping World Trucks race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Busch and Almirola pulled wide behind leader Todd Bodine on the final lap and Almirola nudged Busch's No. 51 Toyota to the front. They overtook Bodine just before the finish line in the fading daylight at the massive 2.66-mile oval.

The win was Busch's sixth in the Trucks series this season and his fourth in his last four starts.

Bodine, who was looking for his fifth consecutive win in a restrictor-plate race, was third. Terry Cook was fourth, followed by David Starr.

Points leader Ron Hornaday Jr. was collected in an 11-car pileup with five laps remaining and finished 17th. Chrissy Wallace, making her first Trucks start, finished 13th, while father Mike wound up 28th.

Formula One

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton claimed the pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates. Hamilton set a time of 1 minute 40.948 seconds on the last qualifying lap around the new Yas Marina circuit, edging Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel by almost six-tenths of a second. Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, will start from third today, ahead of the Brawn GP teammates Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button.

Irwindale

Cory Turner of Indianapolis won the NASCAR Pick Your Part Outlaw Figure 8 West Coast Championship 100-lap feature race at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Steve Stewart of Long Beach finished second in the race and clinched his third division title in the last four years.

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The standings

Points leaders for the Chase for the Sprint Cup heading into today's Amp Energy 500 at Talladega, Ala. Race begins 10 a.m. PST.

*--* Drivers Total Pts Jimmie Johnson 6,098 Mark Martin 5,980 Jeff Gordon 5,948 Tony Stewart 5,906 Juan Pablo Montoya 5,898 Kurt Busch 5,858 Ryan Newman 5,786 Greg Biffle 5,748 Denny Hamlin 5,746 Carl Edwards 5,685 Kasey Kahne 5,659 Brian Vickers 5,568 *--*

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