Hamilton Qualifies On Front Row

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Bobby Hamilton walked into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series post-race press conference and yelled for Andy Petree to come qualify his Winston Cup car.

Petree, driving for the first time in several years, had qualified his NCTS truck in third place.

But Hamilton didn’t need Petree’s help. He was plenty fast enough on his own Friday, putting Petree’s Chevy on the outside of the front row for Sunday’s Virginia 500.

Jeff Gordon was the fastest of them all Friday, winning the pole with a lap of 94.181 mph. The pole was his second of the season, second at Martinsville and 41st of his career.

Gordon had been in a bit of a slump after winning the Winston Cup championship last year, but the second-place finish at Texas last weekend and Friday’s pole has Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports team headed in the right direction.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, with Terry Labonte posting his best qualifying effort of the season in fourth. Rusty Wallace, a six-time race winner here, qualified fifth.

Bill Elliott, last week’s pole winner at Texas, was sixth, followed by Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Sterling Marlin and Ryan Newman.

Hamilton’s mood Friday was decidedly different than the last time he was at Martinsville. Last October, while battling for the lead, Hamilton and Kevin Harvick engaged in an on-track shoving match, with Hamilton coming out the loser.

Later, Hamilton said Harvick wasn’t even a “scab on Earnhardt’s butt,” referring the man Harvick replaced at Richard Childress Racing. The frammin’ and bammin’, as Earnhardt used to call short-track excitement, is limited here, Hamilton said.

“Stuff doesn’t happen here a lot,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The deal between Harvick and me last year was a race-determining factor, but stuff like that doesn’t usually happen. You just can’t let up. You have to go through the middle of the corner on a small track, but a car will only run well in the middle of the corner if it’s free.

“But then all of a sudden you can’t push the accelerator down because the car is too free. So when you get the car where you can push the accelerator down, then it won’t turn in the middle. It’s a driver’s-type racetrack. You know where you need to give to gain on the other end.”

Hamilton has a victory and five top-five finishes here, but Martinsville somehow isn’t among his favorites.

“I don’t think I run well there,” Hamilton said. “I don’t go there with a different level of confidence because it’s not one of my best tracks. Look at the common denominators that track has with other places. It’s a short track, so if that is why I’m good, then why am I not better in Bristol?

“Or if it’s because the track is flat, then I should be better at all the other flat tracks on the circuit, and I’m not. I can’t explain why I run well there. I just tend to have good performances there for some odd reason.”

Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin was 29th, while Matt Kenseth, Monday’s winner at Texas Motor Speedway, qualified 26th.

Joe Nemechek drove the No. 26 Travis Carter Enterprises Ford for Frank Kimmel, who was at Nashville Superspeedway for the ARCA race. While Kimmel was fastest there, Nemechek was second slowest here.

The Virginia 500 gets the green flag Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002

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