MOTOR SPORTS: NASCAR REPORT: Childress drivers fill top row; Burton wins pole

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Author: Rick Minter
Date: Aug. 6, 2006
Publisher: Cox Enterprises d/b/a The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Document Type: Article
Length: 741 words
Lexile Measure: 2150L

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Indianapolis --- The resurgence of Richard Childress Racing was never more evident than in Saturday's qualifying session for today's Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Childress claimed the whole front row as Jeff Burton took the pole with a lap of 182.778 mph while his rookie teammate Clint Bowyer took the outside pole. The third Childress entry, driven by 2003 Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick, was 10th-fastest.

The pole was just the fifth for Burton in his 429-race Cup career, but it's his third of the season and his third front-row start in the past four races. He also set the pace in the final practice session Saturday afternoon.

Kurt Busch, who was fastest in Friday's practice and qualified third, suffered a setback Saturday afternoon when he blew a left-front tire and smacked the wall with his No. 2 Dodge. He'll race a backup car.

Kasey Kahne and points leader Jimmie Johnson completed the top five.

Elliott's shop puts engine in lineup

It might not have been big enough to get Gordon Pirkle to sound the siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room, as he has for all of Bill Elliott's poles and victories, but the folks from Dawsonville pulled off a victory of sorts in qualifying for the Allstate 400.

Mike Skinner, driving a No. 37 Dodge prepared in the Elliott shops in Dawsonville, sped to the 17th starting spot in Saturday's time trials.

His R and J Racing entry was built by Evernham Motorsports. The engine was prepared by Elliott's brother Ernie, who also played a key role in the setup of the car, according to John Carter of Toccoa, one of the owners of the team.

"I can't tell you how much Ernie Elliott has helped us," Carter said.

And Bill Elliott, whose No. 00 Chevrolet was 26th fastest, seemed as happy as Carter to see his old friends and crew members like Jim Barfield and Russ Bales put a car in the 400, where seven, including veteran Michael Waltrip --- Elliott's car owner this week --- went home.

"I'm really proud for those guys," Elliott said.

Tire wear might bring more cautions

Tire wear was on the minds of many in the Nextel Cup garage at Indianapolis. Some teams, like Johnson's No. 48 crew, reported that tires were wearing to the cords in less than 10 laps.

Crew chief Chad Knaus limited Johnson to short runs in practice to avoid a blown tire like the one that ruined Busch's primary car.

NASCAR officials said Saturday they might throw the caution flag early in the 400 to allow teams to check tire wear.

Knaus, who turned 35 Saturday, celebrated his birthday by announcing a contract extension with his Hendrick Motorsports team. Now he, Johnson and sponsor Lowe's all are signed through the 2010 season.

"It's a marriage you don't want to mess with," Knaus said.

Hamlin says he's got plenty of time

Denny Hamlin, who enters the Allstate 400 eighth in points and fresh off a win at Pocono, said he's trying not to let the pressure of the points race get to him.

Only the top 10 in points after the Sept. 9 race at Richmond will be eligible to compete in the 10-race, championship-deciding Chase for the Nextel Cup.

"I've got my crew chief, Mike Ford, constantly on the radio talking to me about 'No pressure, let's not worry about this Chase,' and hopefully I've got years down the road to prove myself as a championship contender," said Hamlin, who starts 14th today. "I don't have to do it this year. There are a lot of guys in the Chase that are fighting to get there for the first time, second time.

"I'm just a rookie trying to find my way in this sport and find my position and where I'm supposed to belong, so I don't think I necessarily have to make the Chase this year."


TOM STRATTMAN / Associated PressFans cheer as Jimmie Johnson drives off the track during practice for today's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson will start fifth in today's race, behind Jeff Burton (below), who won only the fifth pole in his 429 races but his third this season. Burton's teammate Clint Bowyer will start second.

TOM STRICKLAND / Associated PressJeff Burton (below), won only the fifth pole in his 429 races but his third this season. Burton's teammate Clint Bowyer will start second.

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