NASCAR

Jeff Gordon wins Infineon pole despite mistake

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Sonoma, CA (Sports Network) - Jeff Gordon was so good that he captured the pole for Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350 Nextel Cup event at the Infineon Raceway despite going off the track. The No.24 Dupont Chevrolet driver posted a record lap of 75.968 seconds (94.303 m.p.h.) around the 1.99- mile, 10-turn road course.

The pole victory was Gordon's third of the season, fourth at the California road course and 49th of his "Cup" career. Gordon has led 296 laps in 11 races at Infineon, the most among all drivers. Mark Martin ranks second behind Gordon with 160 laps led. Gordon leads all drivers with seven career road course victories. "I tried to mess it up," said Gordon. "I'm just really proud of all the guys on the team, they did a fantastic job bringing a great race car and I'm proud to be on the pole. Gordon went way wide in the fast turn 10 corner and all four wheels left the race track. Starting on the front row with Gordon will be Rusty Wallace, who circled the track in 76.072 seconds. "I got through the course pretty good and when I got to (turn) 10, I just got sliding too much," said Wallace. "That cost me the pole right there." The second row will consist of Kurt Busch (76.333) and Mark Martin (76.456). Last year's pole winner, road course specialist Boris Said, could only manage a 19th-place spot on the grid this time around. Other notables include: Tony Stewart - 17th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 20th and Nextel Cup Series leading Jimmie Johnson - 34th. Ricky Rudd is one of eight drivers expected to make their 16th Nextel Cup start at the Infineon Raceway. Rudd, along with Sterling Marlin, Michael Waltrip, Martin, Dale Jarrett, Wallace, Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader have each competed in every "Cup" race there since 1989. Rudd will be making his 50th career road-course start where he has accumulated six wins and six poles. The driver leading with 10 laps to go has won six of the last seven races at Infineon Raceway. The exception was 2002 when Rudd led the final three laps, the only laps he led that day. On the other hand, Robby Gordon led 81 of the 110 laps raced in 2003, the most laps every led by a race winner at Sonoma. The No.31 RCR Chevrolet driver will start 24th. Starting position is important at Infineon. Thirteen of the 15 races have been won from a seventh-place or better starting position. The lowest that a race winner has started was 13th by Davey Allison in 1991. The race is scheduled to begin on Sunday at 4 p.m. (et).

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