Blaney To Start Richmond 38Th

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RICHMOND, Va. – To say Mark Martin and his No. 6 team need a boost of some kind, any kind, is a major understatement.

Martin, running 23rd in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings, got one Friday afternoon when he won the pole for Saturday’s Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway with a fast lap of 124.613 mph.

Dave Blaney drove the No. 93 Amoco Ultimate Dodge to a 38th place starting position for Saturday night's race.

Martin has only one top-five finish this season, one that has seen him endure a multitude of problems from accidents to blown engines.

The pole was Martin’s second of the season and third of his career at the .750-mile oval.

“All of our guys have really kept the faith this year throughout all the heartache and disappointment,” Martin said. “This car is a new car, but it’s awesome. I’m really looking forward to racing it here.

“This team has really rallied around getting this thing turned around, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that from here. We really got the power down during this lap.”

Rusty Wallace, a six-time winner at RIR, qualified second fastest with a lap of 124.596 mph.

“That was pretty doggone close (to the pole),” Wallace said. “It was a good run for us. We just had the car a bit too tight. Other than that, we might have gotten the pole. If we couldn’t get the pole, we were rooting for Mark (Martin). This is one of my favorite tracks and I’m looking forward to running here (Saturday night).”

Ricky Rudd qualified third, followed by Steve Park, Jimmy Spencer, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte and Ward Burton.

The green flag is scheduled to drop on Saturday night’s 400-miler at 7:30 p.m.

Suffering through one of the worst years of his Winston Cup career, Martin’s only victory at Richmond came in the spring of 1990.

“This pole was for all of our guys, who have really stuck together through all of this,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can keep it all together and win us a race here tomorrow night. That’s the one thing that will really pick up everybody’s spirits.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the final 30 laps to win last year’s Pontiac Excitement 400, and in the process, earned the second victory of his young Winston Cup career. He qualified 14th Friday afternoon.

Dale Jarrett comes into this weekend’s activities with a 66-point leader over Gordon in the Winston Cup standings. Johnny Benson is third, 111 points behind Jarrett, who qualified 20th.

Most of the drivers who went out early during qualifying Friday, including Jarrett, complained of slick track conditions.

“I got loose coming off of (turn) four,” Jarrett said. “The track’s been very hot and slick all day, but that’s Richmond. It keeps changing, and the better times are recorded when the later cars go out. We haven’t qualified well here for a couple of years. I guess we’ll just have to be patient and see if we’re there at the end of 400 miles.”

“The track is very hot and slick,” said Joe Nemechek, who had one of the fastest cars in practice but wound up taking a provisional. “I was spinning the tires. Richmond is the same old place it’s always been, hot and slippery.”

Nemechek, Dave Blaney, John Andretti, Stacy Compton, Ron Hornaday, Casey Atwood and Todd Bodine all received provisionals. Buckshot Jones, Hermie Sadler and Hut Stricklin all failed to qualify.

It was the second time in two attempts at Winston Cup qualifying Sadler has failed to make it into a race. Sadler was carrying a four-race sponsorship from the Virginia Lottery, but failed to qualify at both Richmond and Martinsville.

Ward Burton, who suffered a concussion in an accident during last week’s NAPA 500 at California Speedway, was cleared to race earlier this week and wound up with a top-10 qualifying effort.

“I feel great,” Burton said. “This is the best therapy I could have had. It’s like getting a good workout at about 5 a.m.”

Gordon still holds the track qualifying record of 126.499 mph, set in May of 1999. Gordon won last year’s fall race at Richmond.

Park, Nemechek and Wallace were the three fastest cars in the practice session held prior to qualifying Friday.

Fans throughout the country who do not receive the FX channel through their local cable outlet will be out of luck Saturday night. Instead of showing the Winston Cup race on FOX as it normally does, the network has decided to broadcast the event on its secondary channel, a channel many race fans cannot receive in their area.

This has been done with NASCAR Busch Series races throughout the early part of the 2001 season.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2001

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