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NASCAR Thunder Special - Suzuka: Mark Martin on Pole

23 November 1997

SUZUKA CITY, JAPAN -- With windshield wipers running and Goodyear rain tires
bolted on, thirty drivers took to Suzuka Circuitland in a European style
qualifying format. It was Mark Martin that was fastest of the fast in the
unique, to NASCAR, qualifying  session for Sunday's NASCAR Thunder Special -
Suzuka exhibition race Sunday.

Qualifying, that was run in six groups of five, went to Martin after he
negotiated the 1.34 mile road course with a 1.02.279 minute lap at a 80.60
mile per hour clip. Martin, commenting on his lap said, "I drove her pretty
fast and I was all over the place. If this race track is dry, I don't even
know where the groove is. When it's wet you drive all over the place. I mean,
I'm all over the track. There is no right line in the wet. That's one of the
things that gave me an advantage. I slid from one side to the other all the
way around the race track. But of course, I was on the gas pretty hard."

Sitting outside of row one is the #09 of New Zealand native Jim Richards. "We
have a race in Australia where we do similar things with one lap qualifying,"
said Richards.  "In my opinion, it was probably the safest thing to do. With
one lap, you could make a small error so I think it was good."

Rounding out the top-five qualifiers are last years race winner Rusty Wallace,
Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague. Sprague is driving the #5 Winston Cup entry
with Rain-X as the sponsor - appropriate considering the rain that fell during

The NASCAR Thunder Special - Suzuka is scheduled to roll off at 10:30 PM
eastern and will be carried live by TBS television. TBS' coverage of the event
begins at 10:00 PM.