DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Jeff Green led a brigade of Chevrolets to the front of the field Monday to win the pole for Sunday's 45th Daytona 500.
Green won his first Daytona 500 pole with a lap at 186.606 miles per hour in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Green, who drives for Richard Childress Racing, knocked Dale Earnhardt Jr. off the pole after that driver put his Chevrolet up front at 186.382 mph.
"I'm still nervous," Green said. "I feel like I just put in a lap at Darlington. This was great to do today, now we need to do it in Sunday's race."
Green and Earnhardt will form the front row in Sunday's race, regardless of where they finish in either of Thursday's Gatorade Twin 125 qualifying races, which will determine positions 3-30 in the 43-car Daytona 500 field.
Robby Gordon, Green's teammate at RCR, was third at 185.927 mph followed by Earnhardt's teammate Michael Waltrip at 185.460.
"It's easy for a driver at Richard Childress Racing to just push the button," Green said. "Everybody at the engine shop and the fabrication shop really deserve this. This is a phenomenal race car. They gave us something this year that we can race with. It puts us in the driver's hands more this year. The sky is the limit. We feel like we can win each and every week."
The top four cars of the 50 that took qualification runs were Chevrolets. So much for NASCAR's efforts of the "aero matching" by using common templates to bring the four manufacturers in the series on an even basis in hopes of leveling the playing field in the Winston Cup Series.
Ricky Rudd - in his first race for the Wood Brothers - was the highest non-Chevy driver when he qualified his Ford fifth at 185.372 mph.
Six cars in the top 10 were Chevrolets. There are two Fords and two Dodges in the top 10. Pontiac's highest finishing qualifier was Ricky Craven, who was 15th.
By winning the pole, Green will be able to celebrate before next Sunday's biggest race of the NASCAR season. But with Daytona's convoluted qualifying procedures, the rest of the field will be filled by Thursday's two 125-mile qualifying races.
Positions 31-36 will be determined by times posted in the time trial session. Positions 37-42 will be filled by provisional starting positions based on 2002 Winston Cup team owner points with a 43rd provisional filled by a former Winston Cup champion.
If all former champions are already in the field, then that position will go to the next non-qualified driver on the provisional starting list.
It was the second pole of Green's Winston Cup career. His first came at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 25, 2001.
Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart did not qualify after his Chevrolet engine broke on his warmup lap. He will have to race his way into the field in Thursday's qualifying races.
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