Labonte leads pack in race for Bud Pole Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 1998) From the time he arrived at Daytona International Speedway, Terry Labonte had a feeling his No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet...

Labonte leads pack in race for Bud Pole

Shawn A. Akers - NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 6, 1998) From the time he arrived at Daytona International Speedway, Terry Labonte had a feeling his No. 5 Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet would be fast.

But the fastest car after the first day of practice for NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars? Even Labonte was a bit taken aback.

"This is a little quicker than we thought we'd probably be," said Labonte, who turned a fast lap of 192.193 mph during the afternoon practice session. "We had a good test down here and went to Talladega and tested for three days this past weekend. We ran pretty good there. We ran better than we qualified there last time. "When we got here, we knew we'd be ready to run. We're ready to qualify. We made a qualifying run on our first lap on the track this morning. We're pretty good, and that's kind of scary. We don't want to mess anything up."

Labonte will be shooting for his first-ever Bud Pole Award at Daytona on Saturday. Bud Pole Qualifying is scheduled to get under way at 2 p.m. EST on the historic high-banked 2.5-mile trioval.

Labonte was fastest during the morning practice session as well with a lap of 191.951 mph. He was nearly three-tenths of a second faster in his Chevrolet than Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Taurus, who turned in a lap of 190.686 mph.

"We've got a few tenths on the field right now, but some of those guys could make up that difference between now and qualifying," Labonte said. "We were in qualifying mode and some of those guys weren't. It'll be close."

Ford Tauruses, making their first-ever competitive appearance in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, held down three of the top five positions overall in Friday practice sessions.

"We did a lot of testing here and all through testing we were about the quickest Ford down here," Wallace said. "We had a good qualifying run last year for the 500, we qualified fourth. I'm shooting for the front row, but man, that five car (Labonte) is just as fast as lightning right now. I don't know what he's got, but he's way above everybody."

Jimmy Spencer, driver of the No. 23 Team Winston Ford Taurus, posted the third-fastest lap in practice Friday at 190.299 mph. Greg Sacks, in the No. 98 Thorn Apple Valley Taurus, was fourth at 190.138 mph, and Jeff Gordon, the defending champion of the Daytona 500, was fifth at 189.958 mph.

"We're pretty happy with where we're at right now," Spencer said. "We just tried to make as many clean laps as possible, and I still think we might have a little left. That's what we're going to try and work on for Saturday, but I'm pleased with how things have gone so far." Sacks, whose Cale Yarborough team had entertained thoughts of racing a proven Thunderbird at Daytona to start the season, is optimistic in his new Taurus.

"We had a great test at Talladega and that's why we've entered our Taurus in the 500," Sacks said. "Not because of politics or anything else. Cale Yarborough gave our team the option. And we feel what's best is to run our Taurus here in the 500. Right now, we've already posted some pretty quick times and will give it our best to get on the front row."

Derrike Cope, driver of the No. 30 Gumout Pontiac, was the fastest Grand Prix pilot at 190.355 mph, good for fourth-quickest lap overall.

"I couldn't be happier right now," said Cope, who won the 1990 Daytona 500. "The main thing for me is that I'm enjoying myself. We're working hard, working together, and obviously, we're having a little bit of success right now."

John Andretti, who picked up his first career series victory last season at Daytona, had the second-fastest Pontiac Friday with a lap of 189.841 mph.

"I'm ecstatic about our Pontiac right now," Andretti said. "I said if we could qualify in the top 10 I'd be extremely pleased, and it looks like we have a good shot at that. It feels like we're starting the season off right. For the first day of practice, it's best to be in this situation."

The top two cars in Saturday qualifying will make it into the field for the Daytona 500. The others will have to try their fortunes again next Thursday during the Gatorade 125-Mile Qualifying Races.

Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet, won the Bud Pole as a rookie for last year's Daytona 500. Skinner has showed signs of strength again this year, posting the second-fastest time during the afternoon practice session with a lap of 190.427 mph.

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Series General
Drivers John Andretti , Derrike Cope , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Sacks , Cale Yarborough