RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A steady rain washed out the first round of qualifying for Sunday's Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, leaving drivers with only one shot to make the field.

Instead of two rounds, all 38 starting positions, plus four provisionals and a champions' exemption will be determined Saturday.

Both rounds of qualifying for the Hardee's Fried Chicken Challenge 250 also were canceled, so the lineup for Saturday's Busch Grand National race was set based on a series of considerations, some tied to last season.

That's good news for Randy LaJoie, the defending series champion, whose Chevrolet will start on the pole because he won the title last season for owner Bill Baumgardner.

LaJoie also is off to a fast start this season, with a victory in the season-opening Gargoyles 300 and a third in the Goodwrench 200.

Steve Park will start on the outside of the front row, the second of eight straight Chevrolets filling the first four rows.

The first eight rows will have 15 Chevrolets and three Pontiacs before the Fords of Doug Heveron and Mark Martin, starting in the ninth row.

Defending Hardee's champion Jeff Purvis will start fifth.

In the Pontiac Excitement 400, defending champion Jeff Gordon can become the first driver ever to sweep the season's first three races, as well as the first to win two straight spring races on Richmond's 3/4-mile, D-shaped oval.

Friday's washout, however, will make things tougher for all the teams, Gordon's crew chief, Ray Evernham, said Friday.

``It always put extra pressure on you here because this is one of the closest places we go to qualify,'' he said. ``Little things can make such a big difference. When you get out of you rhythm, it's hard.''

Rhythm hasn't been a problem for Gordon's team so far in 1997.

He became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, then followed that by winning last week's Goodwrench Service 400 at Rockingham, N.C.

It's a much different scenario for the 1995 Winston Cup champion that last year, when he arrived at Richmond standing 43rd in the point standings after a 40th-place finish at Daytona and a 42nd at Rockingham, N.C.

``(Last year) everybody said we were one hit wonders, no good, lucky to win the championship,'' Evernham said. ``This year we win the first two and everybody thinks we're unstoppable. If we don't win Sunday, they'll forget about us by the time we roll into Atlanta (for the Primestar 500).''

Gordon's victory here last spring was his first of 10 over the final 29 races, a surge that had him in the thick of the series standings until the final race, when Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte won the title.

Team Hendrick actually will start Sunday holding down the top three spots in the standings. Ricky Craven, who replaced Ken Schrader in the No. 25 car, is second, with Labonte third. They finished 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500.