Rain puts points leader Stewart on Pocono pole.

Sprint Cup SeriesBy Sporting News Wire Service for Nascar.com

For the second time in as many events at Pocono Raceway, Tony Stewart was awarded the pole for a Sprint Cup race because of rain.

In the face of persistent rain on Friday, NASCAR canceled qualifying for Sunday’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the 2.5-mile triangular track. The top 35 positions go to the top 35 cars in owner points, giving Stewart the pole and first choice of pit stalls.

Jimmie Johnson, second in the Cup standings, will start beside Stewart on the outside of the front row. Third place Jeff Gordon gets the third position, with Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin and Juan Montoya starting fourth through 10th, respectively.

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Though starting up front certainly is an advantage, Stewart proved June 7 that it’s not a necessity. Though he was awarded the pole because of a rainout, he started at the rear of the field after damaging his car during practice and going to a backup. Stewart worked his way forward and eventually won the race by conserving fuel.

“You don’t have to be on the pole to win here,” Stewart said. “It’s not a deal-breaker to start 43rd. … It really was a benefit having that first pit selection last time, especially our situation of myself crashing the car during practice and having to go to the back for race day.

“That helped us gain a lot of spots on pit road. It helped take what could have been an extremely long day and make it a good day.”

Stewart holds a 192-point lead over Johnson with six races left before the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set Sept. 12 at Richmond. Martin leads the series with four victories, worth 10 points each to start the Chase if he remains in the top 12. Johnson and Kyle Busch have three wins each, followed by Stewart and Kenseth with two each.

Kenseth is 12th in points, fighting to keep his record of qualifying for every Chase intact. Kyle Busch fell to 14th in the standings last week at Indianapolis and won’t be able to take advantage of his 30 bonus points if he fails to regain a Chase-eligible, top-12 position.

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~ por Mikel en 1 agosto 2009.

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