Roll For The Elusive Pole

TALLADEGA, Ala. - The vast majority of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams will roll into Talladega eyeing one seemingly elusive prize - the qualifying day trophy.

In the past nine Winston Cup events at Talladega Superspeedway, only five drivers have started from the No. 1 position. Jimmie Johnson comes into the Aaron's Dream Weekend at Talladega as the defending pole sitter of the Aaron's 499. He also started in the No. 1 position in the fall EA SPORTS™ 500, but that was based on point standings.

Johnson returns to Talladega for the Aaron's Dream Weekend, April 3-6. He'll make a run to start out front for the third straight time at Talladega during The Birmingham News/Birmingham Post-Herald Qualifying Day on April 4.

Winning the pole position at Talladega seems to run in pairs. Since the fall of 1998 Kenny Schrader won back-to-back pole positions and Stacy Compton swept the poles in 2001 with Johnson taking both spots in 2002.

Joe Nemechek has won two poles in that time, but not back-to-back. Jeremy Mayfield took the pole in the 2000 Aaron's 499 with Front Row Joe starting first in the 1999 EA SPORTS 500 and the 2000 Aaron's 499.

"Qualifying Day at Talladega Superspeedway has always been an exciting day, and also a very suspenseful day," said Rick Humphrey, the vice president and general manager of the track. "When the Top 25 cars are separated by 6/10ths of a second on a big track like this, you begin to realize just how competitive qualifying day has become."

In the track's history, drivers have won the pole position back-to-back 14 times, not including Johnson's sweep last year in which he was awarded the fall pole based on points. In fact, the first seven pole positions at Talladega Superspeedway were claimed between Bobby Isaac and Donnie Allison, with Isaac claiming the first three in the track's history.

Others to claim back-to-back pole positions were David Pearson, Dave Marcis, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott and Mark Martin.

In Talladega's 67 Winston Cup events, only 27 different drivers have claimed the pole position. That's largely due to Elliott's and Yarborough's incredible streaks in the mid-1980s.

"Most of our fans come in the gates earlier in the day to watch the final Busch Series practice and the IROC drivers working together in the draft," said Humphrey. "With the all the action on the track, the excitement just kind of builds throughout the morning and early afternoon leading up to the time each driver goes out there one by one trying to make the race."

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