DOVER, Del. -- Tony Stewart knows he isn't a very good qualifier at Dover Downs International Speedway, so he was happy when rain caused NASCAR to set the field for the MBNA Platinum 400 by car owner points.
That's probably a great deal for Stewart. He picked up 19 positions over his practice placement because there was no qualifying on Friday. The rain gave points leader Dale Jarrett his first Dover pole.
"We never qualify very good up here anyway," Stewart said after NASCAR canceled time tests for the race Sunday. "We usually start mid-pack."
But he hasn't been finishing anywhere near the middle of the 43-car fields. In fact, Stewart is the new master of The Monster Mile.
On Sunday, he'll try to join David Pearson, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to win three straight races on the high-banked oval. Stewart will start sixth in a Pontiac.
That will make his task quite a bit easier than it was last year, when he won this race and the MBNA.com 400 in September. He started 16th in June and 27th in September.
"Hopefully, we won't have to worry about these things we typically have to worry about at the beginning of a race here," Stewart said.
He was alluding to traffic on the narrow, high-banked oval where the hopes of contenders often end with a thud into the wall. That can work in reverse, however, and Kyle Petty won in 1995 after picking up 20 positions when a large portion of the field wrecked in the second lap.
Petty won't have to worry about an improbable victory Sunday. Because of the rainout, he failed to make the field. Also out of the race are Jeff Green, Lance Hooper and Dave Marcis.
Stewart touched on the uncertainly of racing at Dover, saying his victories last year after finishes of fourth and second as a rookie in 1999 are not reasons for optimism no matter how well his car runs.
"You can be the fastest guy for 399 laps, but if you make a mistake on the last lap, you're not going to win," he explained. "There are no guarantees in this sport."
Sterling Marlin was happy that qualifying was scrapped - because of commitments to run Busch and Craftsman Truck series races Saturday - and the cars lined up by points. That was a gain of seven positions over his practice speed Friday morning with a qualifying setup.
"But everybody is in the same boat, and it's a wet boat today," said Marlin, who starts seventh in a Dodge.
Rookie Jason Leffler wanted to qualify, no surprise considering his speed of Friday.
"We've got a pretty good car, and I'm confident we could have qualified better than 38th," he said.
On the basis of car owner points, that's exactly where he'll line up Sunday.
Flanking Jarrett's Ford in the front row will be the Chevrolet of Gordon, 75 points behind in second place. Wallace will start third in a Ford and Johnny Benson fourth in a Pontiac followed by the Ford of four-time Dover winner Ricky Rudd.
Rookie Kevin Harvick starts eighth, Steve Park ninth and Bobby Hamilton 10th. All are Chevys.
The cars will practice twice Saturday should the weather clear, but rain again is in the forecast.
The pole is the first for Jarrett in 14 years at Dover. He won the race in 1998.
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