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Mike Skinner Sits on Pole for Pepsi 400

5 July 1997

DAYTONA BEACH, FL -- It'll be a RCR (Richard Childress Racing) front row that will take the field to green in the 39th running of the Pepsi 400. The pole sitter is Mike Skinner, driver of the Lowe's Chevrolet. Skinner, who was fastest in morning practice, ripped off a 47.424 second (189.777 mph) hot lap around the Daytona's 2.5 mile high-banked superspeedway to clinch his second Busch pole of the '97 Winston Cup series. Skinner's first Winston Cup career pole came here in February for the Daytona 500.

Skinner said after he learned that his time was good enough for the pole, "It's an awful great feeling. Hopefully it's good for Lowe's and Chevrolet and everybody involved with this deal. This is a strong race car. Our best finish so far this season was ninth at Dover, and I think Daytona in February was our second best finish (12th). Hopefully we can improve on that some this week. I'm pulling for Earnhardt to finish second. If we can't win it, I'd like to see him win it."

Sitting on the outside of row one is Skinner's teammate - Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt ran a nearly identical time to Skinner with only .004 seconds separating the two. Earnhardt circled the 2.5 mile track with a time of 47.428 seconds @ 189.761 miles per hour. "We've got a good race car," said Earnhardt. "We'll be good in the race. We weren't that fast in practice, but that was a good run. We ready for the race."

The pole sitter from the last superspeedway event, which was run at Talladega, John Andretti will roll off third on Saturday. Andretti, who seems to have a knack for restrictor plate racing, ran a 47.513 (189.422 mph) second lap. John Andretti said of his lap, "Like any lap around Daytona qualifying, it didn't feel real good. But the worse they feel, usually the quicker they go. We brought a car down here to race not to qualify. We've got our qualifying car up in the truck. I think we could have had the pole, but I think concentrating on the race was the right thing to do."

Gordon will start 4th on Saturday and starting fifth will be Mr Excitement- Jimmy Spencer. Spencer looking forward to the race Saturday said, "It's going to be a hot one on Saturday. We've got to get the car handling nice. It's gonna be a whole different package from qualifying to the race here. Donnie Wingo and Travis Carter always do a great job for the race and we feel confidant going into Saturday's race." Spencer won his ever Winston Cup race at this track back in 1994.

Two cars didn't get times in today's qualifying session. Brett Bodine came as close to wadding up the Close Call Ford as you'd care to come when running 190 miles an hour. "I was scared," recalled Bodine. The thing just about pitched away twice out there off turn two. We ran over something on the track. We cut a rear tire down. We about wrecked in practice when we cut a tire down. It's right in the middle of the tread, so it's something on the track we're running over. We're very lucky this car isn't in a basket right now."

Sterling Marlin, driver of the #4 Kodak car went out twice but never took the green flag. Marlin sensing something was wrong with his car brought it back in instead of wrecking it trying. "We broke a shock or something," said Marlin. "It was bouncing off the ground. We changed some stuff right before we went out for qualifying. It picked the wheels up off the ground. I guess they didn't put one on right or something. I almost wrecked in three and four on both laps coming towards the green, so it's better to save the car for the race than try to be a hero."

Second round qualifying, where starting positions 26 to 38 time based starting spots will be determined, is set for tomorrow (Friday) at 11:00 AM. The field will be set at 42 unless either Terry Labonte (qualified 32) or Darrell Waltrip (qualified 31st) need a former champions provisional to make the race which will bring the field to the 43 car maximum allowable under NASCAR rules.

The Pepsi 400 will run Saturday, July 4th at 11:00 AM and will be carried live TV on ESPN as well as on MRN radio.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel