Another Awesome Run For Elliott

LONG POND, Pa. – The only thing that can stop Bill Elliott in qualifying lately is the checkered flag.

Elliott won his second straight pole Friday, turning a fast lap of 170.568 mph to earn the first starting spot in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. Elliott also won the pole last week at New Hampshire and has four poles in 2002.

Elliott knocked Ricky Rudd off the pole Friday after Rudd had been fastest in practice and fastest in qualifying at 170.358. But Elliott went faster to win his 55th career Winston Cup pole.

“Pocono has been good to me throughout the years,” Elliott said. “I’ve enjoyed racing here. It’s a different kind of race track from what we run week in and week out. Since I came here the first time, I’ve run pretty decent here. You have to change your style here with the times. You try to outrun these youngsters every week and that gets tough. (Crew chief) Mike Ford and all the guys do a real good job putting it together. We’ll throw some things at it in the morning and try to figure out which direction we want to go on Sunday.”

Rudd was second, with Michael Waltrip qualifying third and Elliott’s teammate, Jeremy Mayfield, qualifying fourth. John Andretti was fourth, with Johnny Benson making his return from rib injuries by qualifying sixth. Rookies Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman were seventh and eighth, respectively, followed by Rusty Wallace in ninth and Tony Stewart 10th.

Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin qualified 13th.

Elliott’s qualifying prowess has been impressive lately. In the last nine races, Elliott has qualified outside the Top 5 only twice – and those were a ninth at Pocono in June and a 13th at Daytona.

Elliott’s finishes haven’t been quite as impressive, but Elliott likes where his Evernham Motorsports team is.

“Everything has gotten better,” Elliott said. “The engine is better, the chassis is better. Aerodynamics are better. The tires are better. It equates to more speed and you’ve got to figure out how to get the optimum out of that. It’s a never-ending evolution. Since I came on board with Ray, I’ve been able to have the technology there to bring it all together, and it’s really been neat. As far as the race is concerned, we’ve had our ups and downs and we need to try to put it all together and run 500 miles. The last race (at Pocono) we ended up about 20 laps short.

“You keep chipping away at it. (The pole) gives you not only good track position but a good pit selection on Sunday. All that starts to equate…. Hopefully it’ll all come together. Last week we had a problem, and it wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just one of those situations that happens in a race car. We’ve just got to forget about the past and concentrate on what our mistakes are and work on the next group of races. There’s a lot left before the end of the season.”

Jerry Nadeau will make his second start in Petty Enterprises’ No. 44 Dodge from the 12th position. Nadeau was named this week as the team’s full-time driver for the rest of 2002.

Mike Wallace, making his first appearance in A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 14 Pontiac, qualified 36th. Wallace replaced Stacy Compton in the car and will drive it the rest of the year.

Last week’s winner at New Hampshire, Ward Burton, turned in the 34th-fastest time on his first lap but spun on his second. Burton didn’t hit anything and won’t have to go to a backup car.

Kirk Shelmerdine hit the wall coming off Turn 3 and dropped some fluid on his first qualifying lap. Later, defending race winner Bobby Labonte blew an engine on his second lap and was only 37th fastest on his first. But Labonte got in the race on a provisional.

All the delays made for a long day at Pocono. Qualifying started a little after 3 p.m. (ET) and ended more than two-and-a-half hours later.

Carl Long was the only car to go home. The provisionals went to Labonte, Kyle Petty, Brett Bodine, Mike Skinner, Derrike Cope and Shelmerdine.

The Pennsylvania 500 gets the green flag Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET).

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