Mayfield captures his third Talladega pole

Mayfield captures his third Talladega pole

TALLADEGA, AL - Evernham Motorsports' Jeremy Mayfield took the Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge out for a Sunday drive Friday afternoon at the Talladega Superspeedway at 186.489 mph. Mayfield's lap around the 2.66-mile track secured his third...

TALLADEGA, AL - Evernham Motorsports' Jeremy Mayfield took the Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge out for a Sunday drive Friday afternoon at the Talladega Superspeedway at 186.489 mph.

Mayfield's lap around the 2.66-mile track secured his third upfront start at Talladega. He also started number one in 1996 (Spring) and 2000 (Fall). It is his first pole in 75 races; his last was in October of 2000 at Rockingham.

Jeremy Mayfield.
Photo by Jim Redman.
"We needed this," said Mayfield. "That's what its all about. I knew the guys worked hard and I knew we were going to be the best we'd ever been, but I didn't know we were going to be this good.

"I felt like coming into this year this was the best team I'd been associated with, but we feel like we haven't had a chance yet to really show that, I've felt the past two or three weeks we've been going over the hump."

Kevin Harvick, piloting the No. 29 RCR Chevy, starts second. Harvick's run backs up RCR's restrictor plate prowess displayed at the season-opener in Daytona. Harvick's teammate Robby Gordon also starts within the top ten in sixth.

"It was a great lap for us," Harvick said. "We were a little bit nervous. We had to go out second and really didn't know how everything was going to shake out. We ran a '40' (51.40 seconds). Usually, it picks up more than it did. But, I think everything slowed down a little bit and the wind picked up a little bit.

"RCR always has great superspeedway cars, so every time we go to Daytona or Talladega it's really exciting for us. We're looking forward to Sunday. Hopefully, it goes as good as it did in Daytona."

Elliott Sadler continues to silence his critics with strong runs. Sadler in the No. 38 RYR Ford will start third. Sadler also started third in Atlanta, sat on the pole the next weekend in Darlington, and rolled off from the outside pole last weekend in Texas.

Elliott Sadler.
Photo by Jim Redman.
"The M&M's Ford Taurus is fast again," said Sadler. "We were one of the fastest Ford's in practice and I think we backed it up pretty good here in qualifying."

Sadler will be followed by the former Winston Cup champions, Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott.

Clearly Elliott in the No. 9 Evernham Dodge is the man to watch this weekend. He has two wins and eight poles here. He also holds the track qualifying record at 212.809 mph set in the fall of 1987.

David Green, navigating the No. 60 Hendrick owned Chevy would have started sixth, but NASCAR threw out the time after Green's cars rear end was deemed to be too low after the session. The ruling drops Green from the field completely. In turn, Green's misfortune is Mike Wallace's lucky day. Wallace was going home until Green's car was disallowed. He gets the last spot available on speed, 36th.

Jimmie Johnson, last year's pole winner launches off seventh accompanied by Ryan Newman and Mark Martin.

Casey Mears is the highest starting rookie in 10th, his best qualifying this season.

"That was a good run," said a pleased Mears. "When you come to a place like Daytona or Talladega you've really got to thank the crew and a lot of guys back at the shop building the bodies, and the engine crew did a great job, too. I think we qualified 27th or so at Daytona. The guys really worked hard to pick it up and come back here, and they did an excellent job with the Target Dodge.

"As a rookie, everything is difficult to adapt to. Everything is a challenge, especially for me. I just had one season of Busch under my belt, and I'm still learning a lot about stock cars. It feels good to come here and run well. I just go around there and hold it wide open and try to run the best line I can and they do the rest. I appreciate all their help."

Earnhardt, Jr., who was fastest in this mornings practice session and has won all of the last three races at the Alabama track starts a disappointing 14th. He ran a 184.840 mph, well off his practice speed of 187.060 mph.

"We should have run a little faster than that," said Earnhardt. "We run better than that in practice. But, we kind of had a little trouble getting through tech and I think it slowed the car down a little bit - going through there.

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by James Spires.
"But, we ain't never really been great qualifiers here. We don't have any poles at Daytona or Talladega. We just race good and that's all the really matters."

Reigning series champion Tony Stewart also had a lackluster session; he will start Sunday from the 20th position.

"We thought we lost a motor the last run of practice," commented Stewart. "It was a real good surprise knowing we didn't. We had a bearing in a gear go bad, so just the fact that we got to qualify and didn't have to change motors was a plus for this team."

Current point leader Matt Kenseth put the No. 17 Roush Ford on the board in 27th.

"The driver's job is the easiest job in the house when it comes to qualifying at Talladega," said Kenseth. "That's just all we had. We picked up two-tenths from practice, so I guess that's good."

Provisionals were taken by Ricky Rudd, Jeff Burton, Dave Blaney, John Andretti, Ken Schrader, Mike Skinner and rookie Tony Raines.

A disappointed Rudd commented on the possible problem after his qualifying run: "I noticed the temperatures didn't come up like they're supposed to. I don't know if we got the motor too cold or what, but it was real sensitive."

Failing to make Sunday's 43-car field were David Green, Larry Foyt and Brett Bodine.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Brett Bodine , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Mike Wallace , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Larry Foyt , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , David Green , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney , Jim Redman , Mark Martin