Labonte Takes Pole With Track Record

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    BROOKLYN, Mich. -- If Bobby Labonte could nickname the particular No. 18 Pontiac Grand Prix he brought to Michigan Speedway an appropriate name would be "near perfect."

    On Friday, Labonte and the car were simply stunning enroute to a track record and the pole position for Sunday’s Kmart 400. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had a lap time of 37.918 seconds, 189.883 miles per hour on the two-mile oval and admitted he had no clue how good the lap was.

    "They (the crew) were no more surprised than I was. I was surprised I was that fast too, I mean I really was. We didn’t run that fast in practice," Labonte said.

    "The crew said, 'It must be pretty good because they’re going to hold you,' and I said, 'Well, whatever it is, I’m going to drive the IROC car. I’ll be back in a little bit. Then they told me what we ran and I was like, 'Well that is just truly amazing.' I don’t know what happened."

    The chassis he is running will be in its eighth event and has an average finishing position of 1.7. Not only does that particular Pontiac have two wins, Michigan in August of 1999 and Atlanta in November of 1999, but it also has five second-place finishes. Its most recent appearance was two weeks ago as Labonte posted a second-place finish at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

    In addition, the current Winston Cup points leader clinched his eighth top-10 qualifying run and first pole for Pontiac during the 2000 season.

    Also posting his eighth top-10 qualifying run this year was Ricky Rudd, who will sit on the outside of the front row. Rudd, who scored a victory at Michigan in 1993, also broke the track record with a lap time of 38.091 and lap speed of 188.021. The previous record was set by Ward Burton last August when he clocked a lap of 188.843 mph (38.127 seconds).

    Dale Jarrett, teammate to Rudd at Robert Yates Racing, blew an engine, failed to take the green flag and will make his qualifying run Saturday.

    Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and Joe Nemechek topped off the top-five qualifiers.

    Gordon, who finished second in both events last season, has one victory and 11 top-fives at Michigan, feels his team is prepared to face the 400-mile excursion.

    "This is a track we have confidence in no matter what. You’ve got to have the package underneath you, and right now, we’re just going to try to get our Chevrolet as fast as we possibly can get it out there and handling well in the race," Gordon said.

    "We always seem to find a good way around here. If it comes down to fuel mileage, we hope we’ve got that, too. We didn’t test here so we’ll run practice Saturday and see what we’ve got. I like races not to come down to fuel mileage, so first we’ve got to get the car to go as fast as it will go."

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