Kahne takes pole for Nextel All-Star Challenge


CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – Kasey Kahne’s pit crew lost its title as the best in NASCAR, but bounced back Friday night by putting the driver on the pole for the Nextel All-Star Challenge.

Kahne’s crew serviced his Dodge in 13 seconds to help put him in the top starting spot for Saturday night’s race. His crew was dethroned earlier this week in the Pit Crew Challenge, finishing second in the competition that spotlights NASCAR’s unsung heroes.

“They stepped it up tonight, and they showed they didn’t care about finishing second,” Kahne said.

The qualifying format for the All-Star event is unlike any other race, in which the fastest lap wins the pole. In this race, the field is set by the combined speed of three laps and a pit stop.

Jimmie Johnson, winner of the 2003 All-Star race, qualified second and actually had the fastest pit stop of the day at 12.2 seconds. Kurt Busch qualified third and was followed by Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman.

Mark Martin, the defending race winner, was 16th out of 18 cars.

The field is open to race winners from 2005 and 2006, past winners of the event, and former series champions. Two more drivers will gain entry to the race on Saturday night – the winner of the Nextel Open, and a driver voted in by fans.

Scott Riggs led qualifying for the Nextel Open, beating rookie Denny Hamlin for the top spot. Elliott Sadler wrecked as he attempted to qualify and will have to go to a backup car.

AP-ES-05-19-06 2141EDT