Originally created 10/30/04

Bliss wins pole for Atlanta Busch race



HAMPTON, Ga. - Ryan Newman might be out of contention for the Chase of the Championship, but it hasn't slowed him down.

He won his third consecutive pole position Friday night, cutting a lap of 191.575 mph at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Newman is ninth out of 10 drivers competing for the championship, 266 points behind heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. And while he probably won be able to catch series leader Kurt Busch, he hopes to rally in the last four races by leading laps and winning races.

"Until we're mathematically out of it, count me in," he said. "We definitely still have a shot. Bonus points (for leading laps) are at a premium.

"One step at a time, one lap at a time. It's going to take some bad luck for the other teams, but we're going to continue to strive to do our best, no matter what."

Joe Nemechek, who's won two of the past five poles, qualified second at 191.318 mph.

"I hate getting beat by a little bit," Nemechek said. "We've been on a roll for the last couple months."

Newman now has a series-best eight pole positions. He said he was surprised the cooler nighttime temperatures didn't help create faster speeds.

"I thought we would have gone a little faster, but the humidity and dew and everything else slowed the cars down a little bit," he said. "That's the toughest part. We have no excuses now. We've proved we're the fastest race car on a given lap. You have to do that for 60 laps in a row (during a fuel run) here. It's definitely not an easy task."

IROC RETURNS: The Royal Crown International Race of Champions will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway next year.

The four-race series that pits the top drivers from the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch and Truck series, as well as the World of Outlaws, USAC and IRL Indy Car Series against each other will open at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18. Other races are scheduled for Texas Motor Speedway on April 15, Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 8 and Atlanta on Oct. 29.

Points are awarded after each race and the overall winner will earn $1 million.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.