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Kenseth wins NASCAR pole

  |   May 31, 2002 at 5:14 PM
DOVER, Del., May 31 (UPI) -- It took 89 starts, but Matt Kenseth finally won his first pole position for a Winston Cup race.

Kenseth raced around the high-banked, one-mile concrete oval at Dover International Speedway in 23.25 seconds at an average speed of 154.939 miles per hour Friday to earn the pole for Sunday's MBNA Platinum 400.

"We have never been really good qualifiers so I feel really good to win the pole here by so much," said Kenseth, who is second in the Winston Cup point standings and who finished second to teammate Mark Martin at last Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. "Even though you don't see it every week, our qualifying has been getting better and I feel like we're more on an even keel with everybody else."

Kenseth, who has eight career poles in the Busch Series, backed up his fastest morning practice speed of 156.027 mph in his No. 17 Ford.

"Everybody dropped off a little bit (after the morning practice) but I felt like I got everything out of it that I could have," Kenseth said. "I just hope that it drives that good in the race."

Bill Elliott will join Kenseth in the front row after a lap of 154.374 mph in his No. 9 Dodge.

"It seems like we have gotten better as a team each and every week and that gives me more confidence when I go out to run," Elliott said.

Substitute driver Jerry Nadeau was third in his No. 10 Pontiac at 154.136 mph.

"We finished second here last year and I have led here a few times," Nadeau said. "This is my last week with these guys and I am trying to have a good finish to get some more opportunities."

Nadeau replaced Johnny Benson, who was injured the weekend before in the Hardee's 250 Busch Series event at Richmond. Benson is expected to return for next week's Pocono 500.

Michael Waltrip was fourth in a Chevrolet, followed by Kurt Busch in a Ford. Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin qualified 27th in a Dodge. Rookie of the Year points leader Jimmie Johnson was 10th in a Chevrolet.

"I couldn't get in the gas like I needed to, but still looking at the big picture. We're sitting ninth (actually 10th) right now and that's great," Johnson said. "It's a great effort for the first time here in the Lowe's Monte Carlo. We're having fun and looking forward to the race on Sunday."

© 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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