Jeff Gordon swept to Hendrick Motorsports 100th NASCAR Winston Cup pole position and his sixth of the season in fine style at the New Hampshire International Speedway as he gained valuable track position over his nearest Winston Cup rivals Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd.

Joint NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Jeff Gordon will start Sunday's New England 300 at the one-mile New Hampshire International Speedway in the best possible position when he secured pole position for the 39th time in his Winston Cup career in Friday's Bud Pole qualifying session.

Gordon recorded a best lap of 28.905-seconds on his second and final qualifying lap to knock Bobby Hamilton off top spot and give him invaluable track position in Sunday's race where overtaking is expected to be difficult, but not impossible as was the case last season. The No.24 DuPont Chevrolet driver had to sweat it out for some time as he was the 22nd of 44 drivers to make a qualifying attempt and although Mark Martin and Jeremy Mayfield came mighty close to deposing the three time New Hampshire winner from top spot, nobody had an answer for Gordon.

Martin's Roush Racing Ford came closest to Gordon's mark with the veteran driver lapping within one hundredth of a second on his first flying lap to claim the outside spot on the front row as he looks to perk up a dismal year with the Pfizer Ford.

Mayfield's Penske Racing Ford will start third after the rapid, but perennially unlucky driver lapped the flat oval just two thousandths slower than Martin. Gordon, Martin and Mayfield were the only three drivers to lap below 29 seconds on a day where less than eight tenths of a second separated all 44 cars.

Hamilton ended up a well deserved fourth overall for Andy Petree Racing, looking to find two new sponsors for the 2002 season despite becoming a winning operation courtesy of Hamilton earlier this year while Steve Park completed the top five as his traditional second-half surge appeared to get underway.

Last weeks pole sitter Todd Bodine shot into third place when he qualified his Haas-Carter Kmart Ford but he dropped to sixth by the end of the session while last weeks runner-up Robert Pressley, Ken Schrader, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton, leader of all 300-laps here last autumn, complete the top ten.

A number of drivers put in exceptional qualifying performances as they avoided being the only team to be sent home early with Ron Hornaday (11th), Hut Stricklin (16th), Rick Mast (19th), the returning Mike Wallace (22nd) and an emotional Kyle Petty (26th) all worthy of praise. Petty's qualifying run was especially special as this was the first time he had been to NHIS since his son Adam was killed here last Spring.

Of the main contenders, Ricky Rudd lines up 14th, one place ahead of Johnny Benson who was quick here one year ago. Rusty Wallace almost hit the wall coming out of turn four on his qualifying run and he ended up 23rd, one place ahead of Kevin Harvick, winner of last weeks Tropicana 400. Defending New England 300 Champion Tony Stewart could only qualify 25th while last year's runner up, Joe Nemechek was 28th, one place ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Among those taking provisionals were Dodge drivers Sterling Marlin, Stacy Compton and Buckshot Jones while practice crashers Jerry Nadeau and Brett Bodine both had to resort to provisionals after failing to find the necessary speed in their respective back-up cars.

Unsurprisingly the man going home early is Mike Bliss and the No.27 Eel River team.


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