Park Cruises To California Pole

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FONTANA, Calif. - Steve Park captured the Pole for Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway with a speed of 186.838 mph. Park became the eighth different driver this season to collect a Bud Pole.

Friday's qualifying run around the 2-mile oval marked Park's third career pole, and first since the 2000 event at Homestead, Florida.

"I think this is the beginning," said Park. "I'm so glad and I'm so confident in the guys that I have to be able to work so hard. You wouldn't believe how hard they worked this week to not only to bring the car to the wind tunnel, but to work on it in the shop and make sure the tires don't hit it. They just put so much effort into making this car into a car that we could qualify that it just rewards not only myself, but the whole, entire team. It just went to show them that with the hard work, it is definitely going to pay off. It showed me today, too, that with the confidence I have in the team and the confidence I have in myself and my ability that if given the car to put on the pole, we're going to put it on the pole. You've got to remember, it has been a year and a half since we sat in here. It's been a long time. You can just imagine what has transpired in the last year and a half for me."

In four previous starts at California Speedway, Park has posted an 19.3 average finish with his best finish of 15th coming in 2001.

Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Elliott Sadler rounded out the Top 5. Jerry Nadeau, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joe Nemechek and Jeff Burton completed the first ten qualifiers.

Elliott, who went out first, held on to the top spot until Park came along and knocked him off late in Friday’s session.

"I was tickled to death with what we ran,” said Elliott. “I knew Steve was quick and had the car to beat. Unfortunately we didn't put it all together. We were close. Right now my main concern is to come in the morning and get it where we can run well Sunday afternoon. That's my main goal. Last year I couldn't even see the front from where I started. At least I can now.”

Newman, who was the fastest in the morning practice session and was the favorite to win the pole this afternoon had problems getting into turn three in his qualifying run.

“The lap should have been better,” said Newman. “I just screwed up a little bit. I just didn't get what I wanted. I guess that happens every once in awhile, but I wish it hadn't happened today because we had a good shot at the pole. It was a good effort for the team. This is a good track, and I'm really looking forward to Sunday."

Failing to make the show are Hideo Fukuyama and Kerry Earnhardt.

Sunday's Auto Club 500 will take the green flag at 2:30 p.m. (ET) and be televised live on FOX.

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