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Bill Elliott wins NASCAR pole

  |   April 5, 2002 at 7:53 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas, April 5 (UPI) -- Newly repaved Texas Motor Speedway produced the fastest speeds of the year Friday as Bill Elliott recorded a top lap of 194.224 miles per hour to win the pole for the NASCAR Winston Cup Samsung/RadioShack 500.

Already NASCAR's all-time fastest driver at 212.809 mph at Talladega in 1987 in the days before restrictor plates, Elliott used his Dodge Intrepid to knock Elliott Sadler off the pole after a lap of 193.071 mph in a Ford Taurus.

The speeds are so fast and the grip on the track is so good, many of the drivers complained that the G-forces entering the turns could lead to some extreme stress in Sunday's race at the 1 1/2-mile oval.

Elliott admitted his pole-winning effort was aided by a lengthy delay after Frank Kimmel crashed in the first turn. By the time the track was cleared, cloud cover had cooled the racing surface, allowing Elliott to gain an advantage.

"I was done after that first lap," Elliott said. "When Frank Kimmel crashed going into Turn 1, it held things up and gave it that much more time for the race track to cool off and the cloud cover to come over. That really helped us.

"We hoped that drawing the late number in the qualifying draw, the track would cool off."

During the 1980s, Elliott was NASCAR's fastest driver, regularly upping the speeds at Daytona and Talladega. But when Bobby Allison's airborne car nearly cleared the fence in front of a crowded grandstand in 1987, series officials began the restrictor-plate era to keep speeds well under 200 mph.

Those plates are used only at those two tracks, however, so the ovals at Texas and Atlanta have become the fastest tracks on the circuit. Elliott also won the pole at Atlanta last month with a lap of 191.542 mph.

Friday's pole was the 53rd of Elliott's career -- the most of any active Winston Cup driver.

"This track hasn't been that good to me in the past, but neither was Homestead last fall," Elliott said of the Florida track where he scored his last Winston Cup win last November. "We had a good run at Atlanta for the pole and we struggled on Sunday. That is what we have to get through here, to sort through what this race track will go through and get a good handle for Sunday."

Ricky Rudd's Ford was third at 193.016 followed by the Chevrolet Monte Carlo of Michael Waltrip at an identical speed. Dale Jarrett rounded out the top five at 192.967 mph in a Ford.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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