Warm-up: Andretti throws down gauntlet

Though he doesn't qualify as well as he used to, Michael Andretti's race pace is unquestioned as he approaches the age of 40. But the American star has been quick all weekend at Rockingham Motor Speedway, where he will make his first front row start in nearly two years

Warm-up: Andretti throws down gauntlet

Andretti showed his hand by leading the race day warm-up, clocking a lap just 0.3 second slower than Kenny Brack's pole time. Nine drivers lapped within two tenths of Andretti's 25.205s (211.244 mph) benchmark.

"The car feels good and we're due for a good race," remarked Andretti. "It's going to be tough to pass and track position is king."

Tora Takagi kept up his good form and ran second at 25.221, while Patrick Carpentier was third at 25.299. Dario Franchitti was seventh fastest at 25.388 seconds, one spot ahead of pole man Brack. Franchitti said that most of the passing this afternoon will occur in the pits.

"It's hard to get close to the guy in front of you," he said. "The cars are so evenly matched and the straights are so short that a guy has to make a big mistake for you to get a decent run."

Franchitti also said the first few laps will be treacherous: "The car was sliding all over the place at first this morning because of the ASCAR rubber."

The race is set to run 211 laps or 312 miles. The mandatory pit stop window has been set at 47 laps, so drivers will have to make a minimum of four pit stops. The Rockingham lap is so short that anytime a driver makes a green flag pit stop, they will lose a lap to the leaders. So divergent strategies are unlikely.

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