Dale Jarrett spent last week with his family, trying to deal with the unprecedented terrorist attacks. Friday, he dealt with The Monster Mile like never before.
Jarrett's Ford got around Dover Downs International Speedway in 22.238 seconds, going 154.919 mph to beat Bobby Labonte by just 7-thousandths of a second and win the pole for Sunday's MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400.
Although Jarrett is happy to be back on the track this week, he appreciated NASCAR's decision to postpone the race last Sunday in Loudon, N.H.
"We did not need to be at a racetrack," he said. "It's a sport and it's our profession, but it's entertainment. That's not what we needed to do last week."
He did what was necessary Friday, getting his first earned pole at Dover. He started first here in June but did so because he was the Winston Cup points leader when qualifying was rained out.
Jarrett donated his $6,000 award for winning the pole to the Red Cross.
Jarrett felt renewed by spending time with his family, a rarity in NASCAR, where drivers are on the move all but a few weeks each year, racing and testing their cars.
"We got to do some things last week that normal people do," he said. "I learned a lot about where my priorities are and where they should be."
He learned enough Friday to edge Labonte, whose Pontiac went 154.872. The speeds were far off Rusty Wallace's 2-year-old track record of 159.964.
Jarrett smiled when asked about speeds on the high-banked oval, one of just two concrete tracks on the circuit.
"Ricky Rudd and I were talking about how fast this track seems," Jarrett said. "It feels like you're going 300 mph. The qualifying lap is pretty exciting, but you're just happy when you're through."
It also was the 14th top start of Jarrett's career.
Labonte just missed getting his 22nd career pole but wasn't unhappy with his qualifying run.
A close third was Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose Chevrolet went 154.852. Next came Jarrett's teammate, four-time Dover winner Rudd.
Ryan Newman won the pole for today's Busch series race, the MBNA.com 200 (1 p.m., TNT; Radio 1330, 1340). His Ford got around The Monster Mile in 23.131 seconds at 155.536 mph. That fell just short of Mike Skinner's Busch track record of 155.932. Skinner qualified third, trailing only Newman and defending series champion Jeff Green.
Rockingham 500 in jeopardy
ROCKINGHAM, England -- CART's Rockingham 500 was in jeopardy Friday with drainage problems on the new oval and some frustrated drivers concerned about safety.
So-called "weepers" -- spots where underground water bubbles through to the surface -- washed out practice Thursday and Friday. Unlike Formula One, races on banked ovals cannot run on a damp surface.
CART chairman Joe Heitzler said a 2-hour, 10-minute practice would be held today with the race following at 10:10 a.m. The race had been scheduled for 7:30 a.m.
CART said the race, expected to draw 40,000 to the 52,000-seat circuit, could be held Sunday if there was more rain, or the track failed to dry.
The grid for today will be set according to season points -- as it was a week ago in Germany for the American Memorial 500 -- with Kenny Brack on the pole followed by Gil de Ferran and Michael Andretti.
In other news, Alex Zanardi might be released from intensive care in a few days following a crash that forced the amputation of his legs. "He could be released any time from Sunday to the following week," Dr. Walter Schaffartzik said Friday in Berlin. "We have to do this on the basis of his recovery."