Spencer Makes Quality Run
October 4, 2001 | 11:00 P.M. EST
Spencer beat teammate Todd Bodine for the UAW-GM Quality 500 pole Thursday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, turning a lap of 185.147 mph. It comes several hours after Spencer said he has a handshake deal with another car owner he wouldn’t name.
“I might not leave now,” Spencer said with a smirk. “Nothing’s in concrete, right? It’s pretty special tonight.”
And Spencer was kidding about staying with the Carl Haas/Travis Carter-owned team. Spencer made a handshake with another car owner – perhaps Chip Ganassi? – and he said he’s never broken a handshake.
Spencer also said he didn’t want to answer any more questions about next season because he promised his car owner he wouldn’t reveal who it was. Instead, Spencer preferred to talk about what happened on the track.
“Todd did a great job,” Spencer said. “In Chicago, he sat on the pole, and the 26 team got second. That was pretty neat for Carl. Then we come back here to Charlotte and we reversed the role. We did it in Travis’ home track.”
And they did it in two completely different race cars. Bodine’s lap of 184.489 was with a different chassis setup.
“It seems like every time we go to the race track, we end up with totally different setups,” Bodine said. “We were on the front row together at Chicago with totally different setups – and the same scenario tonight. What Jimmy likes in the race car and what they do to their cars, it never fits what we need to do.
“We get to the same point by doing different things. It’s pretty neat you can get to the front row and have different setups like that.”
The rest of the Top 5 had some interesting names. Kenny Wallace qualified his No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevy third, with pole favorite Ryan Newman fourth and Kevin Lepage a surprising fifth in his debut in the No. 7 Ultra Motorsports Ford.
The rest of the Top 10 were: Tony Stewart, defending race champion Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jerry Nadeau.
Winston Cup points leader Jeff Gordon was quick in practice but ended up 20th in qualifying. Gordon won last weekend’s Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway, extending his points lead to 222 over Ricky Rudd, who qualified 19th.
"I don't know what happened out there," Gordon said. "I just got high going into (Turn) 3. I just didn't get it down to the bottom of the race track. The car felt good. We just didn't get the lap we hoped for. A lot of guys really picked up and we just didn't.
"This is a great race car, a great race team, and this is Charlotte. Things will change a lot during the day and on Sunday."
Thursday’s qualifying capped a busy week of driver movement, with Mike Wallace moving from the No. 7 to the No. 12, Lepage going from the No. 4 to the No. 7 and Bobby Hamilton Jr. taking over duties in the No. 4.
Of those three, Lepage was clearly the fastest.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Lepage said. “My hat’s off to the NationsRent Ford guys. They did a great job preparing this Ford. I love this place. We were fast off the truck.
“I’m telling you, these Yates motors really went down the straightaway. I’m just glad to be here right now… It’s been a long time since I had this much fun in a Winston Cup car. I’m just really excited right now.”
Wallace didn’t qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 here in May in the No. 7, and he was slow Thursday night in the No. 12, ending up 43rd fastest and taking a provisional.
His brother, Kenny, was pretty fast in his best performance since taking over for the injured Steve Park.
“This is what I always expected out myself,” Wallace said. “Everybody in the garage area, everybody across the nation probably doesn’t know what the hell to think because nobody ever realized what I had. This has been a fun ride.”
Newman didn’t have such a fun ride Thursday night. He was fastest by more than a tenth of a second in practice but couldn’t back it up.
“I didn’t hit it perfect, there’s no doubt about that,” said Newman, who won the Coca-Cola 600 pole here in May. “We ran faster here in the spring, but Jimmy had a great lap. We had no really great reason to get the pole here. We got the pole in the spring (to make) the Bud Shootout at Daytona, but just starting in the Top 5 is a big deal for us here. We’ll just keep continuing to learn as a team.”
Jimmie Johnson qualified for his first Winston Cup race, putting his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 in 15th position with a lap of 184.037 mph.
Stuart Kirby and Carl Long both qualified for their first Winston Cup race, bumping some high-dollar teams from field. Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler, Mike Wallace, Ricky Craven, Dave Blaney, Terry Labonte and Kurt Busch used provisionals to make the race.
Two Richard Childress Racing cars, those driven by Robby Gordon and Jeff Green, and two Petty Enterprises cars, those of Kyle Petty and Buckshot Jones, failed to make the field. Others who didn’t qualify were Derrike Cope and Frank Kimmel.
The UAW-GM Quality 500 gets the green flag at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.