Qualifying: Rain stops play

Nothing happened on Friday at Darlington Raceway, with all-day rain wiping out practice and time trials for Saturday's Gatorade 200 Busch Series race and Sunday's Southern 500 main event

Qualifying: Rain stops play

Grids for both races were made up by points and criteria, with leader Sterling Marlin awarded pole position for the 500 and top contender Greg Biffle defaulting to the pole in Busch.

Behind Marlin at the start of the 25th race of the season are Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and rookie Jimmie Johnson.

Provisionals went to Joe Nemechek, Jerry Nadeau, Mike Wallace (in A.J. Foyt's No. 14), Brett Bodine, Tony Raines (in the BACE car), Morgan Shepherd, and Ted Musgrave (in ULTRA's part-time ride).

Carl Long, who has yet to make a race this year, was the odd man out again.

A stationary system has hung over the East Coast from New England to South Carolina for several days, with showers and occasional heavy rain persisting. The forecast is not much better for Saturday and Sunday, although breaks in the weather are possible.

Practice for both races is scheduled for Saturday morning, with the Busch show in the afternoon.

Drivers and crews idled through the long, grey day, although it became apparent by early afternoon that the weather was not going to lift. Qualifying was rained out for the second time this year, the first at Pocono in June.

Gordon, third in points, 111 behind Marlin, has been sneaking up on the championship race through the summer. After his win last week at Bristol (which broke a 31-race losing streak), observers suddenly have decided he is a contender.

"It's funny," he said. "The week before Bristol, nobody would have thought we'd even have a chance at this thing. One win and the most laps led one night, and all of a sudden it's like, watch out.

"It's just funny how things turn around. I've been saying for weeks if we could just get something to go our way, and get that win or that strong finish, then watch out. I hope that that means good things to come."

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