Dave Blaney captures first NASCAR pole

Feb. 21, 2003 at 7:30 PM
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ROCKINGHAM, N.C., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Dave Blaney recorded his first career Winston Cup pole Friday and will start up front in Sunday's Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway.

"It's pretty cool," Blaney said. "Sunday is when it counts and that will really be cool. We have a lot better team this year, but I sure didn't expect to win the pole at Rockingham. A pole means a lot to me."

Blaney ran a lap of 154.683 miles an hour in a Ford Taurus. It was the second pole for the Jasper team and the first since Greg Sacks in 1994 at Atlanta.

Blaney did something unusual on the Winston Cup circuit, placing an entry from a single-car team on the pole. That last happened here last year, when Ricky Craven won the pole for Cal Wells' PPI team.

A former World of Outlaws Sprint Car driver, Blaney won a pole in his 113th start. His best previous starting position was third last year at Richmond and in 2001 at Atlanta.

"I was pleased with our car the first run of the day," Blaney said. "I was a little apprehensive because this was a brand new car, a different type of body. I was very happy with it. I know it will race well Sunday, regardless of what will happen.

"(Crew chief) Bootie Barker has re-energized our whole team. Bootie has a lot of enthusiasm instilled in him."

With Friday's practice session delayed because of rain, Barker and Blaney concentrated on race setup rather than qualifying speed. They thought qualifying might be canceled and the 43-car starting field would be based on last year's Winston Cup owner points.

They figured right for the pole, too, as Blaney knocked Johnny Benson -- the most recent winner at this track -- out of the No. 1 starting position. Benson had the second-fastest speed at 154.553 mph in a Pontiac Grand Prix, securing his sixth top-10 start in 15 races at Rockingham.

Mark Martin was third in a Ford at 154.429 mph, followed by the Dodge Intrepids of Sterling Marlin at 154.422 and Bill Elliott at 154.416.

As a sign of the times -- a sluggish economy stalling NASCAR's once-rapid growth -- there were only 43 cars entered in this race, so everyone was assured of making the field.

Defending Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart will start 33rd. Seven drivers had to take provisional starting positions -- Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Jeff Green, Todd Bodine, Larry Foyt, Tony Raines and Derrike Cope.

Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip will start 22nd.

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