Pocono Friday qualifying report

Burton rolls to Bud Pole at Pocono LONG POND, Pa. (July 24, 1998) Ward Burton, the next to last driver to make a timed run Friday in Bud Pole Qualifying for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, outran Jeff Gordon to earn...

Burton rolls to Bud Pole at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. (July 24, 1998) Ward Burton, the next to last driver to make a timed run Friday in Bud Pole Qualifying for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, outran Jeff Gordon to earn his second pole position this year.

Burton's lap of 168.805 mph was an event record, breaking the one set in July 1996 by Mark Martin in a Ford. The former event record was 168.410 mph.

"The pole is just a good morale booster. It's a good confidence booster for my team and anybody else's team and we'll start the tempo of the race," Burton said after collecting his fifth career pole. "I'm pretty daggone sure we're gonna lead the first two laps and we're gonna try to get a good race package on this car."

Gordon was the 31st driver of the 46 who made a one-lap qualifying . run, while Burton was 45th. Gordon's lap of 168.249 mph bumped Rusty . Wallace from the pole. It appeared no one could catch Gordon, but then. when Burton, who had been one of the fastest cars in practice, took to. the track, a cloud came over the speedway "Jeff beat me in Charlotte . (in May during qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600) in a similar way," . Burton said .

"I had a great car at Charlotte and we were one of the first 10 cars to go out. No one was close to that lap until Jeff went out. He beat me by two one-hundredths (of a second). Right before I went out, one of my crewman said, 'Remember what happened at Charlotte.'"

Immediately after qualifying at Pocono, Burton referred to the "cloud gods" as being on his side since clouds covered the track during his lap. The track temperature dropped considerably during the qualifying session that lasted about an hour and 40 minutes. When qualifying began at 3:03 p.m., the track temperature was 111 degrees. When it ended at 4:40 p.m., it had dropped to 102 degrees.

"It was pretty obvious the last 15 to 20 everybody was going faster, . just getting more grip of the race track with the track surface being . cooler," Burton said Burton's performance gave Pontiac its fifth . pole this season. Chevrolet now has seven and Ford six. It also was . his 10th top-10 qualifying effort in 1998, and made him the ninth . different pole winner in 10 races at Pocono .

There now have been 11 different pole winners in 18 qualifying sessions this year.

Gordon's lap of 168.249 mph, or 53.492 seconds, was a half-second quicker than Burton's fastest practice lap of 166.809 mph, or 53.954 seconds.

"I sat there and thought about it (Gordon's lap) for a minute and I said, `Half-second. Wow! That's a bunch, but around this race track, picking up a little bit everywhere, half a second is not that much,'" Burton said.

After his run, Gordon said he knew there were some drivers who could beat him, but he still was happy with his performance.

"I went out there and it stuck like glue. They've been giving me some great qualifying engines," said Gordon, who has started on the front row in eight of the last nine races. "A little bit of tape and a little bit of air pressure and all the things they do to the car for qualifying really paid off.

"Starting up front is very important everywhere we go. Qualifying today is a major part of the weekend. You see guys battling for the pole and those top spots because it's so hard to pass these days with the five-and-five rule."

Rounding out the top-five were: Rusty Wallace, Ford, 167.936 mph; Bobby Labonte, Pontiac, 167.838; and Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 167.785.

Veteran Morgan Shepherd put the unsponsored LJ Racing Chevrolet in the seventh starting position with a lap of 167.579 mph., and Dave Marcis earned his first top-25 starting position this year. In fact, it was the first time Marcis had qualified in the top 25 since June 1997 at Michigan Speedway. On both occasions, he started 25th. Marcis' lap was 166.325 mph.

Those failing to make the top 25 included Darrell Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, who won at Pocono in June, Bill Elliott, Kyle Petty, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Joe Nemechek , Dave Marcis , Morgan Shepherd , Mark Martin