Elliott takes The Winston pole

CONCORD, NC - Bill Elliott manning the wheel of the No. 9 Evernham Dodge landed the pole for NASCAR's annual All-Star event, The Winston. It is Elliott's fifth career pole for The Winston. Elliott and the No. 9 team win the pole sitter bonus of ...

CONCORD, NC - Bill Elliott manning the wheel of the No. 9 Evernham Dodge landed the pole for NASCAR's annual All-Star event, The Winston. It is Elliott's fifth career pole for The Winston. Elliott and the No. 9 team win the pole sitter bonus of $50,000.

"I'm so happy for these guys," said Elliott. "Dodge has done such a good job supporting this team, Ray's (Evernham) has done such a good job of supporting me over the last two or three years. It's really put me in such a good position coming in here, I know that I am in first class equipment, and I just gotta go out and not make mistakes and do my job."

Winston qualifying was unique. It consisted of three laps including a mandatory four-tire pit stop. The twenty-three cars lining up for The Winston have the opportunity to win $1 Million.

A concept not so foreign to Elliott's team, Elliott was the first driver to score a Winston million bonus, by winning the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1985.

"The key word is if you make it to the last segment," Elliott summed up. "That's what makes it interesting. I made a comment out there earlier; sometimes the guy coming out of the Winston Open has an advantage on the guys in The Winston.

"For me, looking at the guy who wins the Winston Open, he's probably going to have a better handle on how the racetrack is going to be than the rest of us. It'll give him an opportunity to run The Open, and then run the segments to get to the end."

Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick start second and third.

"Man they're going to tear up a lot of race cars," Kevin Harvick said. "This is a race everybody gets really jacked up about. There are no points, it's just about pride and money. And when you put money in front of any of these guys - including myself - it's like a shark looking for fresh meat."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Sterling Marlin round out the top five starters.

"We've been focused so much this year on the big picture," said Earnhardt. "Getting the championship - but for this one, there are no points on the line, so we're going to let it hang out. That's what I love, and that's what my entire team loves. It's all about guts.

"This is one of the best nights of the year for me, even though I hate waiting all day and night for it to start (approx. 9 pm). I think this is how it should be every week: a real show. smoke and lights and fireworks. It has this energy that no other event generates. "It's more like a rock- and-roll concert than any other race, so I like that part of it. Most of all, I like the format of the race - no points, no holding back, no messin' around- just put your foot to the floor and let's see who's the best. Plus, I can sleep in my own bed when the night is done."

Rusty Wallace had put the No. 2 Penske Dodge on the pole, but a missing left rear lug nut caused NASCAR to levy a 5-second penalty against the No. 2 team. That penalty sent Rusty from first to 18th.

"The car was really good," said Wallace. "Man I thought we had it. I never thought we'd have a loose lug nut. It's a team thing. This is the like the Union 76 pit stop contest. If you make one mistake, they look bad, but we know we've got great guys.

"I kind of like the format and I kind of don't. The car is really good. The lug nut in the left rear was about a sixteenth of an inch loose, and that's all it takes."

The Winston, NASCAR's annual All-Star event will kick off Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The Winston consists of 90 laps, broken up into three segments of 40, 30 and 20. A fan vote on NASCAR.com will determine how the field will be inverted on during the final 20-lap portion of the race. The vote is to determine how many of the front running cars after the second leg of the event will be sent to the back of the field. Fans can vote for 4, 6, 8 or 10 cars.

Park on pole for Winston Open

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin