NASCAR & Auto Racing

Unqualified success

Drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup have won the Bank of America 500 in each of the past four years, but no Chase driver has won the pole for the fall race at Lowe's Motor Speedway since Ryan Newman in 2004.

So Thursday night could be the night for drivers who are not in the running for the championship to steal at least a little bit of attention as the Chase comes to the halfway point.

Elliott Sadler won the pole in October 2005, then Scott Riggs won in 2006 and Newman last year.

One driver who might keep that streak going tonight is Kasey Kahne, driver of the No.9 Dodge.

Although Kahne isn't in the Chase, he did sweep to victories in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge and the Coca-Cola 600 at the 1.5-mile track in May. Nobody has won all three of the major Cup races at Charlotte in the same year, so Kahne will be going for history Saturday night.

“It would be a huge accomplishment for me personally and everyone at Gillett Evernham Motorsports to be able to complete the sweep,” Kahne said.

“I enjoy racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway; we've had a lot of success there. It's a track where I seem to know what the car needs to go fast. We've run up front a lot there since 2004, so I feel fairly confident going back.”

This will be Kahne's 10 {+t}{+h} career start at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and he has never won a pole here. He has, however, started on the outside of Row 1 three times and has six top-five starts at this track.

Only five other drivers have come into Charlotte's October race with a chance for a three-race sweep.

Darrell Waltrip had the first shot in 1985, but he finished 14 {+t}{+h}{+,} three laps behind Ken Schrader in the fall. Davey Allison finished second to Geoffrey Bodine in October 1991, then Dale Earnhardt was third going for the sweep in 1993.

Dale Jarrett foiled Jeff Gordon's bid for a sweep in 1997, winning as Gordon finished fifth.

Jimmie Johnson then finished third in October 2003 after winning the all-star race and the 600 that year.

Brian Vickers is another non-Chase driver who could make some noise in qualifying. Vickers was the third-fastest qualifier, behind Kyle Busch and Kahne, here in May.

“Somebody asked me one time what it is I do at a certain track to make it so good for me,” Vickers said in May. “If I knew that I would do it every week.

“Every driver has a unique driving style and every track accepts a certain style, the way you roll out of gas and get on the brake and things like that. It's how you drive it. This is one place that has been good for me.”

It also has been good, certainly in qualifying, for Newman. This will be his final Charlotte race in the No.12 Dodge – he's moving to Stewart Haas Racing next year – but Newman has put his car on the pole seven times at Charlotte. He has started fourth or better in 12 of his 15 career Lowe's Motor Speedway starts.

* Denotes rookie