LOUDON, N.H. — Kurt Busch and David Reutimann appeared fast enough to challenge for the pole Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

That, however, will go to Sprint Cup Series points leader Tony Stewart — and not based on speed.

For the third time this season, qualifying was canceled because of rain and the field for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 was set by the series rulebook, which relies primarily on owners’ points.

Stewart will have to use a backup car Sunday after wrecking during Friday’s practice. He will not have to start at the rear since qualifying had not taken place and his team put the original engine in the backup car.

“I feel it’s a car that’s very comparable to the one we started with which was very, very good,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure we’re in a situation we were in at Pocono (Pa.) where the second car is better than the first one. I feel like this one is even to the first car.”

Stewart won the Pocono race June 7 with a back-up car after starting from the rear of the field.

Busch and Reutimann were the only cars to exceed 130 mph during the lone practice Friday but will line up fourth and 14th, respectively . Stewart was 41st fastest.

With 10 races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Busch, who won this race a year ago, is looking to cement his position in the top 12.

“We knew it was going to rain this afternoon and it might wash out qualifying,” Busch said. “That was our thought process. We stayed in race trim extra to get those things ironed out.

“I thought it was important for us to at least get one qualifying run in. That way when we come back here in September, we know where that’s going to shake out for us.”

The Sept. 20 race at New Hampshire will start the 10-race Chase to decide the series champion.

Reutimann, coming off a dismal performance last weekend on the road course in Sonoma, Calif., is on the outside of what would be the 12-driver Chase (14th in points) but has time to change it.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that road-course racing is not my strong suite, so I’m happy to be in Loudon,” he said. “That in itself is enough to shake the disappointment.

“There’s always pressure but every race leading up to the Chase is important to get back in the top 12. Of course, this weekend our main focus is Loudon and having a solid finish.”


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