Rudd on pole at Talladega

Ricky Rudd earned his first career pole at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's 499-mile event. Rudd made his first start at Talladega in 1976, but had never qualified higher than 2nd at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Rudd's lap of 191.180 mph ...

Ricky Rudd earned his first career pole at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's 499-mile event. Rudd made his first start at Talladega in 1976, but had never qualified higher than 2nd at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Rudd's lap of 191.180 mph secured his 29th career pole, and first since Watkins Glen in 2002.

"We've got a fast car," said Rudd. "Hopefully we can say it is a winning car in the race or has a chance to win. It's a fast race car, and you have got to have a fast race car at Talladega. Starting on the front row or up front somewhere doesn't really make a difference, but we've had some success and we need that.

"These guys need a good pat on the back."

It's a huge turnaround for the No. 21 Woods Brothers Ford team, who has struggled in time trial and race efforts this season. Previous to this event, Rudd has not started better than 14th, and has not finished a race higher than 18th. It is the first pole for Woods Brothers racing in twenty years.

"It's a tremendous day for Woods Brothers Racing and Motorcraft," Rudd said. "It's a great day."

Michael Waltrip, who won the fall event in 2003, starts second. Even though DEI has dominated restrictor plate races the last several seasons, this is only Waltrip's second top-five start at Talladega (both with DEI).

"We came here a week ago and tested and it was obvious to me that the car had the speed in it to qualify well and race well," said Waltrip. "We usually don't change the set-up between qualifying and the race. It gives you a lot of confidence."

Despite recent bad luck for the No. 15 DEI Chevy team, Waltrip is optimistic about his chances this weekend, "We're heading in a good direction with the way the car is running. If fate is on our side again this weekend, we could be victorious."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. leads all active drivers with six victories at Talladega, and takes the green flag from the third spot.

"I felt like I could have run a little better than I did," commented Earnhardt. "I might have messed up a little bit myself. I figured we'd run a little better. But, I can't really be disappointed.

"Overall pretty happy, just think the driver could have done a little bit better on the qualifying lap."

Joe Nemechek and Scott Riggs complete the top five starters.

"The effort is showing today," said rookie candidate Riggs, who garnered his best career start. "I think that we are going to continue to get better."

Forty-six drivers attempted to qualify for the forty-three car field, failing to make the show were Todd Bodine, Larry Foyt and Kirk Shelmerdine (who did not take his qualifying lap). Notably, Kerry Earnhardt piloting the No. 33 RCR Chevy rolls off from the 36th spot.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Joe Nemechek , Larry Foyt , Scott Riggs , Kerry Earnhardt , Kirk Shelmerdine