NASCAR - Michigan *spoilers

Posted by NeilPearson 
NASCAR - Michigan *spoilers
Date: June 17, 2006 02:05PM
Posted by: NeilPearson
Lester is in again, while Kahne on pole at MIS

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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Bill Lester, the first black driver to race in NASCAR's top stock car series in 20 years, backed up his solid qualifying run in March at Atlanta with another strong performance Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

Now, the 45-year-old driver is hoping to prove in Sunday's 3M Performance 400 that he can race as well as he qualifies.

At Atlanta Motor Speedway, amid much ballyhoo, Lester's race day was far from impressive when he finished 38th, six laps behind winner Kasey Kahne, who also showed the way Friday by winning the pole at Michigan.

"The first thing [at Atlanta] was just making the show and getting some experience," Lester said after qualifying 34th in the 43-car Michigan field. "We came up a little short that time. This time, our objective is to race the whole distance, to go all 400 miles. We want to be on the lead lap.

"If we do that, we're going to be very satisfied."

Lester, a regular in the Craftsman Truck Series, said he was mostly just trying to stay out of the way when he became the first black man to race in the Cup series since Willy T. Ribbs drove at Michigan in June 1986.

"My objective in Atlanta was basically to earn the respect of my competition," he said. "Most of these guys had never raced against me. They may or may not have even heard of me. I just wanted them to have confidence knowing that I wasn't going to do anything stupid out there and that I had respect for them and, hopefully, they would have respect for me.

"I did a whole lot more giving than taking. This time, to try to attempt to finish on the lead lap, I'm going to have to be a lot more aggressive."

Lester, who started 19th at Atlanta in his No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Dodge, was one of 12 drivers vying to qualify on speed for one of nine available spots in Sunday's lineup. He did that easily, turning a lap of 180.845 mph on the 2-mile Michigan oval -- the fifth-fastest among that group.

Kahne, a third-year Cup star racing Dodges for Ray Evernham, earned his 10th career pole and fourth of the season with a lap of 185.644. That was just fast enough to beat the 185.543 of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, the last of 47 drivers making qualifying attempts.

He was followed by Brian Vickers and series points leader Jimmie Johnson, two of Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammates, at 184.995 and 184.943, respectively, and the Petty Enterprises Dodge of Bobby Labonte at 184.810.

Rounding out the top 10 were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joe Nemechek, Mark Martin, rookie Clint Bowyer and defending race winner Greg Biffle. Denny Hamlin, the rookie who won a Cup race for the first time last week at Pocono, qualified 21st.

Ryan Newman, who holds the track qualifying record here, appeared on the way to a very fast lap when he lost control, sliding sideways and barely missing the wall before somehow getting the car back under control. By that time, though, he had two flat tires and had to settle for no speed and a starting spot at the rear of the 43-car field.

Newman said it's simply luck -- not skill -- that kept him out of the wall.

"You've got to do the right thing but, after that, it's just luck," he said.

But the focus Friday was definitely on Lester, who was well on the way to a life as a corporate executive before finally deciding to take the chance and go racing full time.

"I'm just following my dream," he said. "If I could have written my own script, of course I would have been in this position 20 years ago. But, by the same token, I guess there's a reason why the breaks and the opportunities have come this late in my life."

Now that he is getting this chance, with one more Cup race on his schedule this year, Lester said he hopes he can be a catalyst for change.

"Maybe I can influence or inspire the next generation, the generation that's out there now that's behind me, to be able to achieve and be able to take advantage of this wonderful sport we have in NASCAR racing," he said.

"When I was young, in my teens, I didn't see anybody looking like me that I might be able to aspire to and say, 'Hey, he did it, so I know I can do it.' So maybe there's some kid out there that sees me out and says, 'You know, heck, he's out there paving the way and if he can do it I can do it. There's nothing special about it.'"

wow they really care about lester.........

1- 9- Kasey Kahne Dodge Dodge- Dealers/UAW/"Click" 185.644 38.784 Leader
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 185.543 38.805 -0.021
3 25 Brian Vickers Chevrolet GMAC 184.995 38.920 -0.136
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 184.943 38.931 -0.147
5 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios/Betty Crocker 184.810 38.959 -0.175
6 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Budweiser 184.606 39.002 -0.218
7 01 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet U.S. Army 184.252 39.077 -0.293
8 6 Mark Martin Ford AAA 184.007 39.129 -0.345
9 07 Clint Bowyer* Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 183.758 39.182 -0.398
10 16 Greg Biffle Ford National Guard/Charter Communications 183.589 39.218 -0.434
11 1 Martin Truex Jr.* Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops/Tracker 183.552 39.226 -0.442
12 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Cingular Wireless 183.496 39.238 -0.454
13 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 183.337 39.272 -0.488
14 18 J.J. Yeley* Chevrolet Interstate Batteries 183.309 39.278 -0.494
15 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet Kellogg's 183.271 39.286 -0.502
16 10 Scott Riggs Dodge Stanley Tools/Valvoline 183.262 39.288 -0.504
17 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet The Home Depot 182.746 39.399 -0.615
18 19 Jeremy Mayfield Dodge Dodge Dealers/UAW 182.709 39.407 -0.623
19 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Reese's 182.699 39.409 -0.625
20 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Carhartt 182.621 39.426 -0.642
21 11 Denny Hamlin* Chevrolet FedEx Express 182.371 39.480 -0.696
22 21 Ken Schrader Ford Motorcraft Genuine Parts 182.279 39.500 -0.716
23 32 Travis Kvapil Chevrolet Tide-Downy 182.011 39.558 -0.774
24 7 Robby Gordon Chevrolet Menards/MAPEI 181.947 39.572 -0.788
25 41 Reed Sorenson* Dodge Target 181.896 39.583 -0.799
26 14 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet Waste Mngmnt/Ginn Clubs/Resorts 181.878 39.587 -0.803
27 66 Jeff Green Chevrolet Best Buy 181.832 39.597 -0.813
28 55 Michael Waltrip Dodge NAPA Auto Parts 181.791 39.606 -0.822
29 49 Kevin Lepage Dodge 181.680 39.630 -0.846
30 40 David Stremme* Dodge Lone Star Steakhouse/Saloon 181.187 39.738 -0.954
31 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 181.128 39.751 -0.967
32 38 Elliott Sadler Ford M&M's 181.118 39.753 -0.969
33 22 Dave Blaney Dodge Caterpillar Ground Engaging Tools 180.868 39.808 -1.024
34 23 Bill Lester Dodge Waste Management 180.846 39.813 -1.029
35 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Wells Fargo 180.510 39.887 -1.103
36 4 Scott Wimmer Chevrolet AERO Exhaust 180.198 39.956 -1.172
37 42 Casey Mears Dodge Texaco/Havoline 180.194 39.957 -1.173
38 74 Derrike Cope Dodge Howes Lubricator/Royal Administration 180.162 39.964 -1.180
39 96 Tony Raines Chevrolet DLP HDTV 179.951 40.011 -1.227
41 88 Dale Jarrett Ford UPS 179.668 40.074 -1.290
41 26 Jamie McMurray+ Ford IRWIN Industrial Tools 177.488 40.566 -1.782
42 12 Ryan Newman+ Dodge ALLTEL - - -
43 34 Mike Skinner Chevrolet Front Row Motorsports 179.928 40.016 -1.232

Did not Qualify
44 37 Carl Long Dodge R&J Racing 179.444 40.124 -1.340
45 151 Mike Garvey Chevrolet Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 179.274 40.162 -1.378
46 61 Chad Chaffin Dodge Peak Performance 178.430 40.352 -1.568
47 178 Jimmy Spencer Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing 178.020 40.445 -1.661

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