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CUP: Rain Drenches Bristol Qualifying

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A thunderstorm carrying heavy rain and lightning forced NASCAR to cancel Friday’s scheduled qualifying for Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Qualifying was scheduled to begin at 5:10 p.m., but rain began falling about 20 minutes before the session. The rain stopped about 30 minutes later, but it was followed by a powerful thunderstorm that swept across the track, dumping heavy rain and popping lightning around the track property.

Fans were told to leave the track’s huge grandstands as the storm approached.

The weather also is almost certain to delay the start of Friday night’s Food City 250 Nationwide race (7:40 p.m.).

Casey Mears led Friday’s first practice and thus will start on the pole Saturday night. He had a top practice speed of 122.209 miles per hour.

Also starting in the top five will be Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.

“It’s exciting for our team,” Mears said. “Germain Racing has had a long couple of years. The team has really grown in strides. We’ve made a lot of big improvements this year, but there’s still a lot to learn.

“We’ve got a good starting spot and a good race car.”

Starting in the second half of the field Saturday will be two top guns – Jimmie Johnson 37th, Carl Edwards 27th. Edwards desperately needs a win to move into Chase wild-card competition.

Danica Patrick, who was the slowest driver in Friday’s final practice, will start last Saturday night.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.