Qualifying: Labonte takes pole

Bobby Labonte claimed a surprise pole for Sunday's NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, breaking the track record at the 1.5-mile oval in the progress

Qualifying: Labonte takes pole

The qualifying session started nearly four hours late after heavy rain delayed running at the track. Labonte was one of the last runners to take to the track, and his 173.016mph lap was enough to bump Jeff Gordon down into second.

The fact that qualifying eventually took place came as a great relief to the 2000 Winston Cup champion. Had qualifying failed to take place, the cars would have lined up for the race in order of the 2002 championship standings, which would have left Labonte well down the field.

"Obviously, I'm glad we got qualifying in because we were going to start 17th or 18th if we hadn't," he said. "I felt like after practice that we had a good enough race car to start better than that. We kept working on it, and making it better and better, so I was glad that the rain didn't come back in."

Sophomore driver Ryan Newman qualified third, ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kurt Busch, the Las Vegas native and current point's leader, will start fifth on the grid.

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