DOVER, Del. - David Reutimann's dream week continued yesterday at Dover International Speedway, where the third-year driver claimed the pole position for tomorrow's Autism Speaks 400.
Four days after celebrating his first career Sprint Cup Series victory in a rain-shortened race in Concord, N.C., Reutimann outran a fast-closing storm, beat out 46 other cars, and conquered the Monster Mile with an average lap speed of 156.794 m.p.h. around the one-mile concrete oval.
The storm, however, struck at 5 p.m., forcing the grandstand to be evacuated and the truck race to be postponed until 6 tonight.
Overcast skies had cleared for the midday practice session, when Reutimann topped the speed charts at 157.467 m.p.h. in his No. 00 Toyota - nearly a half-m.p.h. faster than runner-up Kasey Kahne. Reutimann's elation over seeing his car number atop the scoring pylon waned, though, when adjustments to the Camry caused it to slow late in practice.
"I'm kind of a nervous person," said Reutimann, who had taken the track 11th in the qualifying order and then waited while "everybody had a shot to knock us off the pole."
The waiting, he added, becomes "nerve-racking."
"I do think we have a pretty good race car, and we have a little momentum going right now," Reutimann said.
Jeff Gordon was a final threat to take the pole late in qualifying, but his No. 24 Chevrolet slammed off the wall along the backstretch. Gordon, who has won four poles here, was third-quickest in practice (156.952 m.p.h.) but will have to start 42d tomorrow in a backup Impala SS.
"It was a hard hit, it destroyed the car, but I'm glad I'm all right," said Gordon, who has been nursing an ailing back.
Kahne followed his second-fastest effort in practice by qualifying second at 156.542 m.p.h.
Juan Pablo Montoya (third) and Reed Sorenson (fourth) will roll off from the second row, no doubt keeping an eye on their rearview mirrors at last year's Dover winners - Greg Biffle (fifth) and Kyle Busch (sixth).
Trucks parked. Pre-race festivities had just concluded, and competitors in the Camping World Truck Series were about to roll off pit road shortly after 5 p.m. when the severe thunderstorm hit. About 15,000 in the grandstand had to be evacuated, officials said.
NASCAR needed just 30 minutes to decide to postpone the AAA Insurance 200 until 6 tonight.
Quote of the day. The crew-chief change on the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet piloted by Dale Earnhardt Jr. created significant trackside buzz yesterday.
Brian Whitesell, Hendrick's team manager of the Nos. 5 and 88 cars, will serve as Junior's interim crew chief this weekend. Those duties, also on an interim basis, will be turned over to Lance McGrew next week.
Though just about every driver in the garage was asked to offer insight into the move, none came close to delivering a broadside quite like Kyle Busch, who worked with McGrew in the Busch Series in 2004.
"You've got to make the most popular driver in the sport competitive, so you've got to do what you've got to do," Busch said.
McGrew has "got his hands full having to deal with what's going on, and if Junior doesn't run well, then [McGrew's] going to be the problem," he said. "It's never Junior - it's always the crew chief."
The track: Dover International Speedway is north of Dover, Del., on Route 13, about 70 miles from Philadelphia. Take I-95 south to I-495 south, exit 1. Take Route 1 south, exiting at North Dover, then go left on U.S. Route 13 south.
Today's on-track events: Nationwide Series qualifying, 10:05 a.m.; Sprint Cup practice, 11:30 a.m.; Sprint Cup final practice, 12:50 p.m.; Nationwide Series Heluva Good! 200, 2:30 p.m.; AAA Insurance 200, 6 p.m.
TV: Nationwide Series qualifying (Speed, 10-11:30 a.m.); Sprint Cup practice (Speed, 11:30 a.m.), final practice (Speed, 12:30 p.m.); Heluva Good! 200 (6ABC, 2-5 p.m.).
Tickets: Call 800-441-7223 or check the track's Web site at www.DoverSpeedway.com