Schrader Qualifies 23Rd At California

FONTANA, Calif. – Ken Schrader and his crew chief, Newt Moore, are bound and determined to get things turned around this weekend for the No. 36 M&Ms Pontiac team.

Qualifying 23rd isn’t quite what Schrader had in mind, but he knows it’s much better than taking a provisional for Sunday’s NAPA Auto Parts 500 at California Speedway. Friday afternoon, Schrader turned a fast lap of 184.521 mph.

“We kind of backed up a little in practice, so it’s really hard to say (if he was pleased with his lap),” Schrader said. “We didn’t really wind up where we wanted. We picked up a lot of time, but we just made so many changes. I wasn’t sure what it (his car) was going to do, and it kind of caught me off guard.”

Temperatures in the Fontana area were cool most of the day Friday. Intermittent rains throughout the day kept the track temperature down.

“It’s not a real big deal,” Schrader said. “It just puts more grip in the track for everybody. Today it just went from cold to colder. It’s not like it went from warm to cold, so it’s no big deal.”

Schrader is 32nd in the Winston Cup points standings coming into the weekend. Crew chief Newt Moore said things need to pick up for the M&Ms Pontiac team over the next few weeks. Moore brought the team together for a meeting last weekend after Talladega.

“Well, I hate to say ‘do or die,’ but it’s getting to that point,” Moore said. “We got everybody together at the shop on Monday and had a meeting to talk about where we’re at and just make sure we’re not missing anything. We’ve led some laps and we’ve been competitive, but we’ve also had five flat tires under green this year. We’ve been wrecked, and, of course, we had that deal happen on Sunday (where a piece of roll-bar padding fell and turned the ignition switch off).

“It’s been so up-and-down, it’s unbelievable. It’s hard to keep everybody excited. But on the other hand, we’ve got a good group of people. They know that if we can get this monkey off our back – actually, it’s starting to feel like King Kong – we’ll be OK.”

Ryan Newman won the pole for Sunday’s race with a track record lap of 187.432 mph.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2002

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