RICHMOND, VA - Terry Labonte, the three-time Richmond victor, landed the Bud pole at Richmond, posting a lap of 126.511 mph in the ...
RICHMOND, VA - Terry Labonte, the three-time Richmond victor, landed the Bud pole at Richmond, posting a lap of 126.511 mph in the #5 Hendrick Chevy. This is Labonte's 27th career pole and his second at Richmond, but the first one he has scored since Texas 2000.
"This is one of my favorite tracks," said Labonte. "If I were to pick a place that is one of my favorites, this is definitely one of them. We've had some good runs here. We've won some races here. We've come close other times.
Labonte's teammate, Joe Nemechek, in the No. 25 Hendrick Chevy, starts on the outside pole. This is Nemechek's best starting spot since winning the pole in the fall of 2000 at Talladega.
"We unloaded really quick off the truck," said Nemechek. "We made quite a few changes today. We made a lot of runs. Every change we made, it seemed to make the car faster. The car was very repeatable.
"The car drove the same in my qualifying lap. My first lap was my fast lap. The second one, I didn't drive it quite hard enough to go any faster. But that's one of the things you do here. If you drive it too hard, sometime you go a lot slower."
All four Hendrick team cars will start within the top ten (Gordon 6th, Johnson 10th).
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the DEI No. 8 Chevy, was fastest in morning practice posting a lap at 127.179 mph, but Earnhardt, the 2000 winner of this race, fell a bit off the pace during qualifying, running only 126.316 mph. His No. 8 Chevy will roll off third.
"It's one of my better tracks," said Earnhardt. "I love coming here."
"We've run in the top five, five times out of seven races here, I think," Earnhardt continued. "We just always run good here and it's always with the same set-up. Every time we try to improve or think we're going to improve we never really do.
"This is kind of a baseline set-up that we've had for a while and it's always really worked good for me."
Rounding out the top five are Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman.
Newman has started within the top ten in all of the last nine races, and this is his eighth top-five start this season. Newman's No. 12 Penske Dodge spoiled an all Chevrolet top five at Richmond.
"Those Chevys are pretty good everywhere," commented Newman. "So, that's not a big surprise. We ran faster than we did in practice, and a lot of people didn't do that. I'm pretty happy with that lap.
"It was a good run for the ALLTEL Dodge. That's about what we figured we'd run based on practice. We'll see what it's like in race trim now."
Casey Mears is the highest starting rookie this week in the No. 41Ganassi Dodge. He will take the green from the 11th starting spot.
"We're not running as good as we'd like, but realistically we're running like we probably should given my experience," said Mears. "This is probably one of the best cars I've had so far, and I hope it transfers over to the race."
Forty-five cars attempted to qualify for this weekend's event; failing to make the show are Derrike Cope and Hermie Sadler. Teams forced to take provisional spots are Michael Waltrip, Ricky Craven, Elliott Sadler, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Green, Larry Foyt and Brett Bodine.
Hideo Fukuyama crashed the No. 66 Ford in morning practice and did not attempt to qualify.
Current championship point leader Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Roush Ford will have to start from the 18th spot, in the middle of the field.
"It was a little too loose," said Kenseth. "The DeWalt guys have been doing a good job. I was too loose and could go a whole bunch faster, but on the other hand, I didn't get a very good lap either.
"The car had more in it than I did; I just didn't really do a real great job with it. I feel real good about the car even if we have to start in the middle of the pack. I think we have a great car for tomorrow night."