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The Callahan Report: Andretti Puts Pontiac on the Pole in Atlanta

7 March 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

HAMPTON, GA: The last time a NASCAR Winston Cup race was held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was in November. Pontiac found victory lane with driver Bobby Labonte at the wheel. Labonte dominated the competition last fall in his Pontiac Grand Prix.

John Andretti
John Andretti
In qualifying for the Primestar 500, it was Pontiac in front once again. This time, it was John Andretti powering his way to the third pole position of his Winston Cup career. Andretti is driving for Richard Petty in the STP Pontiac Grand Prix. Andretti drove a Ford Thunderbird last year for owner/former driver, Cale Yarborough.

Andretti said, "We had basically the same conditions when we qualified here (last November). It was really cold last time, so we got a pretty good comparison. I think the big difference is that Goodyear has a better tire here, but that can't make up for all the spoiler we lost. The corner speeds are down. Four miles an hour is a lot of speed.''

Todd Bodine
Todd Bodine
Another quick but surprising showing for Pontiac was Todd Bodine. Driving for the new Tabasco team, Bodine had not qualified for a Winston Cup event in his first three attempts this season. That all changed when Bodine put his Grand Prix on the outside of the front row in Atlanta.

Beyond the all Pontiac front row, it was Ford making another strong showing. Taurus logos fill the next five spots. The fact that Taurus is strong even after a rules change to slow them down is not as surprising as the drivers piloting them to the front of the field. Dick Trickle was third fastest in his Ford. Kenny Irwin, who had to take a provisional start at Daytona, will start from the fifth spot. His teammate, Dale Jarrett, qualified fourth. Mark Martin, the winner at the most recent race in Las Vegas, will start sixth. Robert Pressley put his Ford Taurus in the seventh starting spot.

The fastest Chevy in the field belongs to Terry Labonte. The two time champion from Texas was eighth fastest. His teammate and defending Winston Cup Champion qualified ninth. Gordon and Labonte are the only two Chevrolets in the top ten.

Injury Update: Rookie driver Steve Park crashed hard in the practice session before qualifying. Park broke his right femur (thigh bone). Other injuries included broken teeth, left collarbone, and left shoulder blade. Park is recovering in a nearby hospital.

Qualifying Speeds:

1. (43) John Andretti, Indianapolis, Pontiac, 192.956.
2. (35) Todd Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Pontiac, 192.841.
3. (90) Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Ford, 192.728.
4. (88) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford, 192.266.
5. (28) Kenny Irwin, Indianapolis, Ford, 192.220.
6. (6) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford, 192.206.
7. (77) Robert Pressley, Asheboro, N.C., Ford, 192.007.
8. (5) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet, 191.900.
9. (24) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., Chevrolet, 191.814.
10. (99) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., Ford, 191.754.
11. (23) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Ford, 191.715.
12. (46) Wally Dallenbach Jr., Basalt, Colo., Chevrolet, 191.642.
13. (9) Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Ford, 191.509.
14. (18) Bobby Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Pontiac, 191.476.
15. (26) Johnny Benson, Grand Rapids, Mich., Ford, 191.304.
16. (31) Mike Skinner, Susanville, Calif., Chevrolet, 191.258.
17. (22) Ward Burton, South Boston, Va., Pontiac, 191.238.
18. (7) Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 191.100.
19. (30) Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Pontiac, 190.732.
20. (78) Gary Bradberry, Chelsea, Ala., Ford, 190.653.
21. (42) Joe Nemechek, Lakeland, Fla., Chevrolet, 190.646.
22. (2) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 190.627.
23. (10) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Ford, 190.581.
24. (81) Kenny Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 190.378.
25. (75) Rick Mast, Rockbridge Baths, Va., Ford, 190.306.

Failed to Qualify

26. (12) Jeremy Mayfield, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 190.215.
27. (11) Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 189.844.
28. (8) Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Ford, 189.694.
29. (98) Greg Sacks, Mattituck, N.Y., Ford, 189.688.
30. (3) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet, 189.584.
31. (94) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford, 189.526.
32. (21) Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 189.513.
33. (96) David Green, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 189.487.
34. (91) Kevin LePage, Shelbourne, Vt., Chevrolet, 189.396.
35. (13) Jerry Nadeau, Danbury, Conn., Ford, 189.390.
36. (50) Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine, Chevrolet, 189.041.
37. (33) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet, 188.931.
38. (97) Chad Little, Spokane, Wash., Ford, 188.912.
39. (36) Ernie Irvan, Salinas, Calif., Pontiac, 188.783.
40. (40) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Chevrolet, 188.758.
41. (05) Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Ford, 188.552.
42. (41) Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala., Chevrolet, 188.124.
43. (16) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Ford, 187.481.
44. (44) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac, 187.449.
45. (95) Andy Hillenburg, Indianapolis, Chevrolet, 187.342.
46. (17) Darrell Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 186.717.
47. (71) Dave Marcis, Wausau, Wis., Chevrolet, 185.965.
48. (1) Phil Parsons, Detroit, Chevrolet, 184.309.
49. (4) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Chevrolet, 183.850.
50. (29) Jeff Green, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 163.107.