NASCAR & Auto Racing

Qualifying a Dodge domain

Qualifying at Lowe’s Motor Speedway has been a Dodge’s domain in recent years.

Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, teammates at Penske Racing, swept the front-row spots in qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 27, and Scott Riggs swept the No. 1 starting spots for both points races in 2006. If you’re looking for favorites for THursday night’s Bank of America 500 qualifying, however, you might want to look at Riggs’ teammates at Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Kasey Kahne has never won a pole at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but he has won two poles this year and 10 top-five starting spots. Elliott Sadler hasn’t won a pole this year, but in his past 11 races here, he has started in the top five seven times.

Newman, of course, is never a bad pick when it comes to qualifying.

He has 41 Cup poles, and six have come here. The only track where he’s started first more often is Atlanta, where he’s won the pole seven times. Until last year’s Coca-Cola 600, when Newman qualified 18th, he’d never started worse than fourth in a Cup race at the 1.5-mile track. Newman’s average starting spot is 4.2.

Busch hasn’t had much success at the speedway, even given his No. 2 starting spot in May. In 14 starts, he has started in the top 10 twice. He also has two top-10 finishes here.

Dodges have earned all of the front-row spots and 10 of the top 15 spots available in the past three races at the speedway.

Casey Mears started third in this race in the No. 42 Dodge a year ago, then won the 600 on May 27 after starting 16th in the No. 25 Chevrolet he now drives for Hendrick Motorsports.

Mears’ victory broke a streak of seven races in which the track’s eventual winner had started in the top 10. In all, 75 of 97 Cup races here have been won by drivers who started 10th or better.

But only one of the past 18 races here was won from the pole – Jimmie Johnson started and finished first in the 600 in 2004. The fall race hasn’t been won by the driver who started first since Harry Gant did it in 1982.