Bill Elliott takes The Winston pole at Charlotte

Elliott takes The Winston pole again By Matthew Hood Leach CONCORD, N.C. (May 19, 2000) That Drive-Thru Crew is something else, and it's becoming clear that their driver's not exactly washed up, either. Friday night at Lowe's Motor ...

Elliott takes The Winston pole again
By Matthew Hood Leach

CONCORD, N.C. (May 19, 2000) That Drive-Thru Crew is something else, and it's becoming clear that their driver's not exactly washed up, either. Friday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Bill Elliott won the pole for The Winston thanks to a great pit stop and three strong laps around the 1.5-mile track.

Elliott will start NASCAR's all-star race from the pole for the fourth time in his career, and the third time in the last four seasons. He won the event in 1986, the only time it was not held at LMS.

His event-record time of 105.932 seconds for a two-tire pit stop followed by three laps was more than a second better than second-place Mark Martin, who ran the course in 106.954 seconds. Elliott averaged 152.928 mph.

The 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion -- who hasn't won a Bud Pole for a regulation event since 1997 -- gave all the credit to his McDonald's Ford team.

"It's the guys," Elliott said. "They have really worked hard and put a lot of effort in to try and make sure the pit stop was just perfect, and they cut a perfect pit stop.

"I felt like I got in (the pits) OK and got out OK. I maybe could have gained or lost a little bit more there, but you never know. Still, it's all the guys. I'm really impressed. I look around in the garage and if I had to pick a crew, I'd pick them to be on my team."

It's not the first triumph for Elliott's crew in recent years. In addition to poles in The Winston in 1997 and '98, the McDonald's team won the Rockingham World Pit Crew competition in 1997.

Elliott's pit stop took 6.8 seconds, 1.1 second faster than Martin's. With a total time difference of 1.022 second, the pit stop obviously made a tremendous difference, which Martin noted.

"There are so many aspects of qualifying when you throw all this stuff in," said Martin, who won The Winston in 1998. "There's getting into the pit box, the pit stop, getting out of the pit box, getting down pit road, getting up through the gears. And then the speed on the race track becomes of no consequence because there's such a huge discrepancy in all those other areas. You're only talking about a half a second or so between the fastest laps and the slowest laps of everybody in the field and you're talking about seconds difference in all that other stuff.

"I kind of threw off the front tire changer. I got in, I don't know, a couple feet past my mark or something. Crowded the front edge of the pit box based on getting in pretty fast. And they hit about a second and a half slower stop than they thought they might be able to get. Everything else went super.

"The stop itself was fast and everything else was fast, so that's how we wound up where we were. We had one glitch and I created that by driving into the pits a little further than I needed to."

Even so, Martin's second-place start is the best of his career in the event. It is the third time in the last four seasons that he has qualified in the top-5 for The Winston.

Qualifying third, .048-second behind Martin, was Bobby Labonte, who won all three poles at Charlotte in 1999 -- for The Winston, the Coca-Cola 600 and the UAW-GM Quality 500 in October. Though he fell a bit from his '99 showing, Labonte was pleased considering his dismal practice runs.

"It was a good run," Labonte said. "We were about a half of a tenth off of Mark. We lost a little bit when I rolled the car through the pits. The front tire changer had to move over a bit. We lost a little bit on the race track. Our second lap wasn't quite as good. It was better than I thought it would be."

Rusty Wallace qualified fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start the race in the fifth position.

The first 18 of 20 spots in the field for The Winston were set in qualifying. Two more positions will be secured in a pair of qualifying races, the Winston Open and the No Bull Shootout. The Winston gets under way at 9 p.m. ET.

-nascar.com-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bill Elliott , Bobby Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Mark Martin