Carpentier dodges rain to win Cup pole

LOUDON, N.H. — Rookie Patrick Carpentier grabbed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The Canadian driver and Las Vegas resident, whose last pole came in a Champ Car in 2004 on the road course in Laguna Seca, Calif., was among the drivers who had to wait out a nearly two-hour rain delay before getting a shot at qualifying for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

“It’s amazing,” said Carpentier, who took his first pole on an oval track with a fast lap of 129.776 mph. “The car was great. We made a couple of changes from this morning, and the car just rotated beautifully through the middle of the corner. It was just stuck on the track. I’m real happy.

“Honestly, if I had won the first pole on a road course, I wouldn’t be as happy. I want to do well on the ovals because that is where they do most of the racing in this series.”

The rain began as series points leader Kyle Busch, the 24th driver in the 45-car qualifying line, was on the mile oval. The Las Vegas native completed one lap that was good for 16th best at that point before officials called him in.

The time trials were delayed for 1 hour, 54 minutes before resuming with Busch given a second chance to qualify, this time on a dry track. He was quicker, but still wound up 27th overall.

Although the track was slick, and there was little rubber remaining after the rain, several cars were faster than Reed Sorenson, the leader before the rain delay with a speed of 128.828 mph.

Kevin Harvick followed Busch onto the track and, despite nearly hitting the wall on his fast lap, took over the top spot with a lap of 128.976. Bobby Labonte then went out and took the top spot from Harvick with a lap of 129.059.

But it was Carpentier, one of the last drivers to make an attempt, who wound up on top in his 16th Cup race. His best previous Cup start was fourth last month at Richmond.

Scott Riggs was fourth, also at 128.976, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 128.885 and Sorenson.

NASCAR CONTRACTS — At Loudon, N.H., Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer are in and Casey Mears is out as three top Sprint Cup series teams announced the results of contract negotiations.

Biffle signed a three-year extension to drive the No. 16 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing through 2011, and Bowyer said he’ll be in the No. 07 Chevrolet of Richard Childress Racing for three more years. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Mears won’t be back in the No. 5 Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports after this season. He has one victory in the last five years and will be looking for a ride with another team.

INDY RACING — At Richmond, Va., Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti will start on the front row in today’s SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.

Kanaan posted a four-lap average of 167.876 mph on the 0.75-mile oval. Andretti’s average speed was 167.795 mph.

The pole was Kanaan’s 10th overall and second this year.

NHRA — At Norwalk, Ohio, water seeping through the racing surface forced NHRA officials to delay qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

Track officials said more than 13 inches of rain had fallen on the track in the last week. On Friday, water began to seep up through the track, including a large area just past the finish line.

Before the delay, Matt Smith rode his Buell to the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, covering the distance in 7.059 seconds at 187.23 mph in the only pro category that got in a full session of qualifying.

Qualifying was halted seven cars into the Pro Stock category’s first session. Richie Stevens was the leader with a 6.833 at 202.64.

KALITTA INVESTIGATION — At Newark, N.J., NHRA officials announced preliminary findings and recommendations resulting from an investigation into Scott Kalitta’s fatal Funny Car crash a week ago in Englishtown, N.J.

Kalitta was the second Funny Car driver in two seasons to succumb to injuries suffered in a crash. John Force Racing’s Eric Medlen suffered fatal head injuries while testing at Gainesville, Fla., in March 2007.

Areas of concern after Kalitta’s crash include the cars’ brakes, parachute materials and mounting techniques, the construction of drag-strip shutdown areas and the ever-escalating speeds.

Kalitta was traveling 300 mph in the final round of qualifying for the SuperNationals when his car’s 8,000-plus horsepower engine exploded, causing most of the car’s body to separate from the chassis.

After that, the parachutes, which help slow the car, did not deploy, and his Funny Car continued to travel down the shutdown area at high speed.

The NHRA said fire didn’t appear to have prevented the parachutes on Kalitta’s car from opening. But series officials plan to work with parachute suppliers to identify new materials that could be more fire resistant.

Series officials also plan to look into developing a braking system that still will remain efficient even when the car loses its body.

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