Motegi Qualifying Report

Mayfield takes Twin Ring pole By Brett Borden MOTEGI, Japan (Nov. 21, 1998) Jeremy Mayfield just keeps finding ways to outdo himself this year. The 29-year-old Kentucky native tore around Twin Ring Motegi in a time of 35.116...

Mayfield takes Twin Ring pole By Brett Borden

MOTEGI, Japan (Nov. 21, 1998) Jeremy Mayfield just keeps finding ways to outdo himself this year.

The 29-year-old Kentucky native tore around Twin Ring Motegi in a time of 35.116 seconds, which translates into 158.799 mph in any country on a 1.5-mile track. It was yet another breakthrough accomplishment for Mayfield in what has become his breakthrough season.

"We had a good car right off the ... I started to say truck but I guess it was right off the container," Mayfield said after qualifying. "I felt like I did in practice. I was kind of concerned because a lot of guys were slowing down with the cooler weather."

But there seems to be no cooling down Mayfield. Coming into 1998, he had barely made a blip on NASCAR's radar screen, with five top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 110 career starts.

But things turned around this season when Mayfield teamed with Rusty Wallace. Mayfield led the points for much of the first half of the season, and did well enough in the second half to post career-high numbers with his first victory (at Pocono), 12 top-fives, and 16 top 10s. Those are very good stats, even if they are overshadowed by the monster season put up by rival Jeff Gordon. Thus winning the pole meant all that much more for Mayfield when he had to edge past Gordon to do it.

"It felt really good to see the 12 on top of the 24 for a change," said Mayfield, who along with several of his teammates still sports a bleached-white hairdo. The Bleach Boys sang in perfect harmony on this occasion, going to No. 1 with a bullet past the Rainbow Warriors.

Gordon said he was surprised at his qualifying effort, then disappointed to see it outdone near the end of qualifying.

"We're really looking forward to the race tomorrow," he said. "To be second is great. I really didn't think we had a shot at the top three. I just wish Jeremy would have beat me by a little bit more. It kind of hurts my feelings to lose by however many thousandths it was."

It was 27 thousandths, to be precise, on a track where Japanese precision and attention to detail are obvious.

"This place is really nice," said Gordon. "A lot of places in the U.S. could take some notes from this place."

Mayfield said Twin Ring Motegi reminds him of so many different tracks back home, but it has its own unique personality.

"It has a little bit of Pocono in it, with the long straightaways, and a little bit of Phoenix, 'cause it's flat and smooth. It's got a lot of characteristics of many tracks but not enough of one in particular to remind you of it."

Outside of the front row, Mike Skinner will attempt to defend his Japanese title (he won last year at Suzuka) from third on the starting grid. Elliott Sadler will start alongside him in his new ride, the No. 21 Citgo Ford. Darrell Waltrip, subbing for the injured Dale Jarrett in the No. 88 Quality Care Ford, starts fifth, while Jeff Burton, piloting a special Bruce Lee Ford, starts sixth. Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr. , and Lance Norick round out the top 10 in the 31-car field.

Dale Earnhardt, starting his first race with his son, will go from the 15th spot on the grid.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Lance Norick , Elliott Sadler