Clouds Help Mears Shine

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JOLIET, Ill. - Casey Mears caught a break when a cloudy sky during his qualifying run helped him become the seventh different NEXTEL Cup Series pole winner in seven races at Chicagoland Speedway.

Mears credited a passing cloud on a sunny, warm day with helping him start Sunday's USG SHEETROCK 400 up front. Mears ran a fast lap of 182.556 mph in his No. 25 National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet.

It is his third career NEXTEL Cup pole and first with Hendrick Motorsports, and first Bud Pole of the season.

"At this place when a cloud comes over, you can count to five and it's going to be a little bit quicker," Mears said. "It may kind of be in your head a little bit, but for some reason or another, whether it's in my head or it's grip on the track, I always go faster when a cloud's out. It goes hand in hand, I guess."

Martin Truex Jr. will start outside the front row after a lap of 182.478 mph in his No. 1 Bass pro Shops Chevrolet.

Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five.

Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, John Andretti and Matt Kenseth completed the first ten qualifiers.

Jeff Gordon, the defending race winner and current NEXTEL Cup points leader, will start 11th. He said the surface of Chicagoland Speedway has aged well and will make for a great race.

"It's a great track and today's the first day to be on the track since last year and already I've seen where the grip level has gone away which is a good thing," Gordon said. "It's going to make for more side-by-side racing for the groove to widen out and I think we're going to see an incredible race this weekend."

Sunday's USG SHEETROCK 400 will begin at 3 p.m.

Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway are wholly-owned by International Speedway Corporation ("ISC"), a leading promoter of motorsports activities. ISC owns and/or operates 13 of the nation's major motorsports entertainment facilities, including Daytona International Speedway (home of the Daytona 500), as well as owns or has interest in a number of other motorsports-related businesses.

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