Its Burton For Certain On Richmond Pole

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RICHMOND - Considering all of his success on the track in recent years, one might find it difficult to believe just how long it had been since Jeff Burton had won a Bud Pole for a NASCAR Winston Cup event.

Think back, if you will, to Michigan Speedway in August of 1996. That was the last time Burton had started from the front of the pack. Until Saturday night.

The driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford earned the second pole of his career Friday afternoon, turning a fast lap of 125.780 mph to edge out points leader Bobby Labonte for the front starting position for Saturday night's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

"One every four years, that's not too bad, I guess," said a relieved Burton. "We had a good car in practice. That's about what we had hoped to run. We were really strong in practice all day long.

"We had a pretty good plan coming in here, and it seems to have worked. (Crew chief) Frankie (Stoddard) and the guys made a lot of little adjustments and changes and it worked out pretty well. That's a lot better than where we usually qualify here, so this is kind of a pleasant surprise."

Burton won the fall race at Richmond back in 1998, outdueling Jeff Gordon in a thrilling finish.

"This is a great track," Burton said. "Back-to-back, we come to Darlington and Richmond, and they are two of the best tracks around. We're looking forward to getting out there and maybe getting back to victory lane here. We've certainly got a good start in the right direction with this pole."

Labonte, who leads Dale Jarrett by 111 points heading into Saturday night's race, turned a fast lap of 125.646 mph. Labonte hasn't qualified well the past few weeks, so Friday afternoon's effort came as a relief.

"That's a lot better than we've been recently, so we'll take that," Labonte said. "That was a good run for us and we've got a good race car. Now we just have to work on the car and see if we can get it ready for tomorrow night."

A total of 47 cars attempted to qualify Friday, with the top-25 positions being determined for Saturday night's race. Second-round qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning, meaning four cars will not make the field.

Jerry Nadeau turned in a solid qualifying effort in the No. 25 Michael Holigan Chevrolet. He wound up third with a fast lap of 125.622 mph.

"That's a good lap. I'm happy for the guys," Nadeau said. "We weren't that great when we unloaded, and it's really been a miserable day up until now. They kept working and working and made a lot of changes. My hat is off to (crew chief) Tony Furr and the guys. They're the ones who really did it."

Virginia native Rick Mast turned in a surprisingly good lap of 125.488 mph, putting him fourth on the starting grid Saturday night. Rusty Wallace, and eight-time pole winner this year and a six-time winner at Richmond in the past, wound up fifth with a fast lap of 125.430 mph.

"It was a good lap," Wallace said. "We really need to run a little quicker than that. It (his lap) wasn't perfect at all, by any means. I was a little tight in the first lap, a little loose the second lap. We've fought it all day long."

Rounding out the Top 10 were: Ward Burton, Bill Elliott, Johnny Benson, Ken Schrader and Mark Martin.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who won the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond earlier in the year, had a disappointing run in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet. His fastest lap of 123.728 mph was only 31st quickest.

NASCAR Busch Series standout Casey Atwood, making his first attempt to qualify for a Winston Cup race in a car prepared by Ray Evernham, wound up 35th fastest at 123.570 mph and will have to sweat it out tomorrow to see if he makes the race.


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