Rain Puts Stewart On The Pole

ATLANTA, Ga. – Qualifying for the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway has been cancelled due to rain, and the 43-car field will be lined up by points. Tony Stewart, who leads Jimmie Johnson in the championship standings by 82 points, will lead the field to the green flag Sunday.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo will start on the outside front row next to Stewart.

"Ideally, I'd like to take a big bite out of the points standings,” said Johnson. “But you know as well as well as I do that Joe Gibbs Racing - those guys are going to run in the top five, top 10 the rest of the year. And I know that and that's kind of why I use the phrase 'chipping away at it'. We're going to go out and try to win each race to get maximum points. And it's going to be hard for us to pick up 20 points per race to really close that gap - the way the points pay out and the way everything works. At best, we'll be able to chip away at it. It's going to take something on their behalf - having a bad day or something happening - for us to really take a bite out of it. I don't really see that team not performing."

Bill Elliott was the fastest in practice earlier in the Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge with a speed of 190.955 mph.

Dale Jarrett was third.

"We weren't that good right at the beginning, but Todd made some good calls on a couple of changes we made and that made the car really good, said Jarrett. “I actually think I could have gone faster and I was looking forward to that, but this is a good race car. This is the same car that I've talked about all year - the one that we built before the midway point and won our races with. We've run well with it and this is just the type of race track where it performs really well."

Jarrett will start 11th in the UPS Ford Sunday.

"This is just a difficult time of year, said Jarrett. “You get a lot of fronts that move through here during the fall and heading towards winter and it's unfortunate. I don't know the answer. You hate it for everyone here at the track because they're great people and it's a great race track. It just seems that their luck with the weather is not very good. You just try to make the most of it. Hopefully, Saturday and Sunday is going to be good and we can at least get through that part."

Rookie Ryan Newman, who will start sixth, was asked if he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to qualify after testing at Atlanta.

"A little bit, said Newman. “We tested here in the early spring and when we unloaded the car on a Tuesday morning, it was 32 degrees and it got to 35 that day. This place was so fast that it was pretty amazing and I was looking forward to the same conditions tonight with the humidity helping the speed and the coolness. But I guess that's not to be. Hopefully, we learned we learned enough in the spring race and in testing here to do well in the race."

In other news, Kyle Petty unveiled the 2003 No. 45 Georgia Pacific/Brawny Dodge Intrepid R/T Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The sponsorship moves from the No. 44 Petty Enterprises Dodge for 2003.

The green flag is scheduled to fall shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday.

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