BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) – Joe Nemechek withstood a rain delay Saturday to win his first pole of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season at Michigan International Speedway.

He enters the GFS Marketplace 400 on Sunday in 17th place in the points standings, meaning he most likely won’t be in the Chase for the Cup. Four races remain before the competition.

“I hope this is a turn for our luck for the season,” said Nemechek, who drove his Chevrolet at 191.581 mph. “We’re looking forward to good things.”

Jeff Gordon, fighting to make the Chase for the Cup, will start second. Kasey Kahne will go third and Kyle Busch fourth.

Season points leader Tony Stewart qualified 36th at 187.583 mph. Stewart has won only one pole this season, but he has won five of his last seven starts. He holds a 1-5-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 10th.

“We’re trying to win a championship,” Stewart said. “(The car) was all right. I’m pretty excited and I think it’s going to be good for tomorrow.”

A shower hit the track after 43 of 48 drivers had made their qualifying runs, leading to a nearly hour delay.

If rain had washed out qualifying, NASCAR would have set the field by the points standings, and Nemechek would have started near the middle of the pack.

“At first I thought I was going to get robbed,” he said.

Nemechek has five top-10 finishes in 22 starts this season. His best finish was third at Pocono, and he finished ninth last week at Watkins Glen.

Gordon, who qualified at 191.352, is 13th in the points standings and most likely would have to finish in the top 10 to make the Chase for the Cup.

“I think this is a statement for our team and a statement to others,” he said. “We just need some good things to go our way. We had that today.”


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