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NOTEBOOK: FROM 31ST TO 1ST PLACE.

Byline: Tim Haddock Staff Writer

FONTANA - Matt Kenseth never has been a high qualifier and the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway was no different.

Kenseth started 31st in the 43-car field and became the deepest starter to win a Cup race at California Speedway.

When asked if he would like to see NASCAR award points for qualifying, Kenseth left no doubt what he thinks of that idea.

``Heck no. Are you crazy?'' Kenseth said. ``No points for poles.''

Kenseth added that while he is not a fan of awarding points for pole positions, he was a fan of the impound rule NASCAR implemented for some of its races last year.

``I like coming to the race track and working on race set-up,'' Kenseth said. ``I think today is the day that pays all the money. They're 500-mile races and if you have the best car, you should be able to start anywhere in the field and get to the front in 500 miles.''

--Stewart's troubles: Tony Stewart has always been a notorious slow starter. After a blown engine and a last-place finish in the Auto Club 500, Stewart is hardly in panic mode.

The defending NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champ for Joe Gibbs Racing can point to some highlights in the race, including leading twice for 26 laps.

``I think we showed (Sunday) that we're right on top of our game again to start off the season,'' Stewart said. ``You know, we don't normally run this strong early in the year, so I'm really excited about where we are right now.''

--Duff stuff: Sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff were honorary race officials and starters for the Auto Club 500 and at the track in part to promote their partnership with Hershey's Icebreakers gum, which was prominently displayed on Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet.

The Duff girls admitted they are NASCAR novices, but they do have stock cars in their blood.

``We are really excited to be here,'' said Hilary Duff, best known for playing the title role in the Disney television series ``Lizzie McGuire.'' ``We don't know much about the sport, but our grandma and dad love the sport.''

Tim Haddock, (818) 713-3715

timothy.haddock(at)dailynews.com
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 27, 2006
Words:369
Previous Article:LAKERS CAN'T GET OUT OF THIRD POOR QUARTER, DISPUTABLE FOUL DOOM L.A. BOSTON 112, LAKERS 111.
Next Article:STEWART'S LESSON IN PR.


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