Saturday, June 30, 2007

New Hampshire Qualifying - Blaney Bellows, Dodge Dips

The 2007 New England 300 begins the post-Montoya-breakthrough era of Winston Cup and Montoya celebrated with a strong fifth-place qualifying effort; it was a pretty good day for Ganassi/SABCO as well as Reed Sorenson timed third. That, though, wasn't the news item of Friday, as Dave Blaney bagged the pole, his first since the 2003 Carolina 400 at Rockingham and the first for Bill Davis Racing since Burton won the pole at the 2002 Richmond 400 (and eighth overall).

That Bill Davis Racing bagged the pole is an interesting irony, as it was five years ago in this race that BDR last won at the Winston Cup level; Ward Burton survived a multitude of problems up and down the field for the win, and also noteworthy was a superb effort by his teammate of that season, Hut Stricklin, who ran in the top eight all day. The other irony is that Ward Burton, forgotten but not gone from Winston Cup, made the race for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, a surprise given the team's competitive hopelessness.

Kurt Busch, a former NHIS winner like Burton, timed second as part of a radically uneven Dodge performance in qualifying. Busch matched his car number with second; his Penske teammate Ryan Newman also did that trick by timing 12th. Ganassi/SABCO rounded out its fleet as David Stremme timed 24th, while Ray Evernham's fleet slotted Elliott Sadler into 23rd. From there, however, the Dodge boys were dismal in qualifying - Kasey Kahne timed 29th and Scott Riggs missed another race for Evernham; Bobby Labonte's hoped-for momentum from Sears Point didn't show up as he timed 32nd and teammate John Andretti, who's run extremely well here with some frequency over the years, was a dismal 40th.

John W. Henry and company displayed Carl Edwards' Ford at Fenway Park before the Red Sox-Rangers game (won 2-1 by the Sox) but that didn't translate into much in qualifying - Edwards timed 22nd, one of just three Fords (Robby Gordon at 16th and David Gilliland at 27th were the others) in the top-thirty. Half of the field's bottom-12 were Fords, including former winner Ricky Rudd at 42nd.

Toyota, however, had it worst of all even with Blaney's pole. The CIFL seized the woebegone and bankrupt Springfield Stallions after they forfeited a scheduled road trip to the Marion Mayhem in Ohio; Toyota may want to do the same with Michael Waltrip's organization as Mikey and Dale Jarrett went home, joining both Red Bull Toyotas - Brian Vickers actually made the race but got busted with a too-low left-front corner and thus went home.

This leaves the Chevrolets, and the top two Chevys of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson of course made the top-10, while Dale Junior and Martin Truex timed well for DEI.

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