Originally created 08/29/98

Gordon on pole for CMT 300



LOUDON, N.H. -- A practice crash by Jeff Burton -- one that could have an impact on Sunday's CMT 300 -- overshadowed Jeff Gordon's seventh pole this season in qualifying Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Burton, who dominated the Jiffy Lube 300 last month at NHIS, was one of seven drivers to have problems prior to time tests on the 1.058-mile oval. He lost his primary car when he hit the wall hard in turn three.

"I didn't miss the groove," Burton said. "There was oil on the race track or something."

But Burton didn't blame the crash on the reconditioned corners, which drivers say are slicker than the unsealed straightaways.

"When you're going that fast, something's going to happen every now and then," he said. "It was like it blew both front tires and turned right, but I know I didn't blow both front tires.

"The brake marks start at the yellow line on the inside and just go straight, so I don't know."

Burton's biggest problem will be starting 25th Sunday on a slick track where passing usually is difficult. He started fifth last month, and won from 15th on the grid last year.

Gordon, who leads the Winston Cup points standings and whose seven poles leads the circuit, was pleasantly surprised.

"That was the best lap we ran all day," he said after posting a speed of 129.033 mph. "I kind of took it easy going into turn one, but I felt the tires coming in the middle of two, and was able to make up time in three and four.

Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, also a crash victim, was not so kind in his assessment of the turns -- where a mixture of sand and liquid asphalt was spread earlier this week in hopes of creating a second racing groove.

"They sealed the race track and sort of messed it up," said Earnhardt, who also went to a backup car.

Even more vociferous in his criticism of the track was Sterling Marlin.

"You can't race hard because you're going to wreck," he said after scraping the wall.

Also forced to backup cars were Ernie Irvan and Ron Fellows. Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott also spun, but did not seriously damage their cars.

Jarrett wound up qualifying seventh, Earnhardt 18th, Irvan 19th and Elliott 22nd.

Marlin was 30th-fastest, and will have to try to qualify today, when positions 26-43 will be set.

Fellows, a road-racing specialist, crashed twice. After his first meeting with the wall, the car was fixed. Later, he totaled its, then failed to make the field in his backup after posting the 44th-fastest speed.

Dan Pardus, Wally Dallenbach and Derrike Cope slapped the wall during their qualifying attempts, and several other drivers swerved and nearly hit concrete in their tries.