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Friday, November 9
Elliott claims second pole of 2001
Associated Press

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Led by Ray Evernham's duo of Bill Elliott and Casey Atwood, Dodges were almost ovewhelming in qualifying Friday for the Pennzoil Freedom 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott led a sweep of the top three spots in the 43-car field and new Intrepids held down six of the top 10 positions.

"It's a Dodge day afternoon," Elliott joked. "Qualifying is only one aspect of the deal. Dodges qualified well in Phoenix but didn't do very well in the race."

The 1988 Winston Cup champion said he was somewhat surprised to be on top.

"We came down here a couple of weeks ago for testing and we were terrible," Elliott said. "The guys made some adjustments and really improved it."

It is the 51st pole of Elliott's career and his second this season for the team formed by Evernham, the former top-rank crew chief who not only started Evernham Motorsports but also guided the return of Dodge to NASCAR's top stock car series after a 16-year absence.

Elliott sold his own struggling team at the end of last year and got a fresh start with Evernham, but is a somewhat disappointing 16th in the season standings and is not among the record 17 different race winners this year.

"I felt like we were really making some gainst until the last two or three weeks," he said. "Then we had all this real goofy stuff happen to us -- engines breaking and crashes. Right now, though, we're just building for next year."

The fast lap of 155.226 mph was easily the fastest of the day, although it was well short of the track's stock car record of 156.440 set last year by Steve Park .

Rookie Atwood, who won his first career pole last month in Phoenix, was second at 154.688, followed by John Andretti at 154.268.

Andretti, part of the resurgent Petty Enterprises team, said he felt like a surprise guest, being so close to the front of the field.

"These guys," he noted, nodding toward Elliott and Atwood, "have been qualifying good for a while. I just happen to get in the mix now and then."

Ricky Rudd , holding onto a bare mathematical chance to overtake leader Jeff Gordon for the Winston Cup championship in the final three races, was fourth in a Ford at 153.811, followed by the Dodge of Sterling Marlin at 153.488.

"We just can't run against the Dodge downforce," Rudd said. "We're fast for our class, but we've got a tough race in front of us. Hopefully, we'll end up toward the front."

Rounding out the top 10 were the Ford of Rusty Wallace at 153.488, the Dodge of rookie Jason Leffler at 153.322, the Chevrolets of Michael Waltrip and Jeff Green at 153.226 and 153.209, respectively, and the Dodge of Ward Burton at 153.187.

Gordon, who needs only to finish 28th or better in each of the last three events to wrap up his fourth series title, was 11th in a Chevy at 153.113. He leads Rudd by 326 points and could clinch the championship on Sunday if he finishes the Homestead race ahead of the runner-up by at least 370 points.

"Our speeds were OK, it's just not the lap we wanted," Gordon said. "This is the car we took the Kansas City and won with, so we should be fine in the race."

Spark plugs

  • Bill Elliott won the pole for Sunday's Pennzoil Freedom 400 Winston Cup race. It was his second pole of the season and left the series with a record-tying 18 this season.
  • Forty-eight cars were vying for 43 starting spots. The drivers failing to make the field were Rich Bickle, Ron Hornaday Jr., Derrick Cope, Hermie Sadler and Carl Long. Making the lineup as provisionals were Bobby Hamilton, Ken Schrader, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Craven, Rick Mast, Buckshot Jones and Kyle Petty.

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    Michael Waltrip talks to ESPN's Mike Massaro about his qualifying run.
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