Ward Burton wins pole for Richmond night race

Richmond, Va. -- Virginia-native Ward Burton captured the pole for Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway in his Bill Davis Dodge. Burton, this year's improbable Daytona 500 winner, lapped the .75-mile D-shaped oval in...

Richmond, Va. -- Virginia-native Ward Burton captured the pole for Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway in his Bill Davis Dodge. Burton, this year's improbable Daytona 500 winner, lapped the .75-mile D-shaped oval in 21.384 seconds, breaking Jeff Gordon's four-year-old track record. Burton and rookie Jimmie Johnson are now the only two drivers on the Winston Cup circuit to have a pole and win this year.

"I really didn't expect to get the pole, but I was just trying to run what I was capable of running -- a good clean lap," Burton explained moments after collecting the seventh pole of his career and his first since Michigan in 1999. "I knew that if I got everything right, that it was possible that we could get the pole. But I was just trying to get our team a good starting spot.

"The track changed a lot from practice to qualifying. It lost a little grip, but our car was good enough to get the job done. We brought a brand new car here and it's actually the first short-track in-house car we've built from bottom to top.

"Today is fabulous for me, my family, and my race team. To be able to do it here where my family, my friends, and a lot of my fans come from is very special. It's fun to be able to wake up at home this morning and be able to drive to the race track."

Although Burton was pleased with his qualifying performance, he was already starting to think about his race strategy.

"It feels great and I'm really excited about it, but I'm already starting to focus on tomorrow. We can win here. We've just go to take one moment at a time and not get too rushed with our decisions. I've got to keep this car out of trouble and be there at the end."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is still recovering from a bone jarring encounter with the Turn 4 wall at Las Vegas last week, qualified his DEI Monte Carlo second. "Just when I think I am starting to feel better, something else starts hurting," he said. "But I was really happy with the car today. We always run well here."

Earnhardt's outside pole is his seventh top-10 qualifying effort of the year and his third top-10 start in the last six races at Richmond.

Defending race winner Tony Stewart will line up in third, just ahead of four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon and Steve Park.

Ryan Newman, driving the Penske Ford was the top rookie qualifier and will roll off the grid 11th. Newman's Raybestos Rookie rival, and last week's race winner at California, Jimmie Johnson will start 26th in his Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo.

Kyle Petty, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace, and Ricky Craven will round out the top-10.

Point's leader Sterling Marlin qualified a disappointing 35th.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Steve Park , Kyle Petty , Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven
Teams Hendrick Motorsports