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Kenny Wallace takes Goody's 500 Pole


By Lori Vizza

MARTINSVILLE, VA-Kenny Wallace was ecstatic following Busch Pole qualifying 
today at Martinsville Speedway. He had every reason to be. The  33-year old 
driver from St. Louis, MO had just captured his first career Winston Cup pole 
with a lap around the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway in 20.153 seconds.

"We did it!" yelled Wallace as the last car on the track failed to unseat him 
from the inside position of the front row. But amid the celebrations, the 
hugs, and the high fives, Wallace was quick to acknowledge a fallen comrade. 
"This is for John Nemechek. He was my buddy," he said proudly, remembering 
the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver who lost his life after suffering 
injuries sustained in a crash during Truck Series event last month.

Ironically, it was John's older brother Joe, who Wallace had to beat in order 
to secure the number one starting position. "I was sitting there and I kinda 
felt like I might get the pole, because I had a gut feeling. I feel a little 
sorry for Joe, but I really needed this. I know what Joe has to feel like, 
but I've been pretty intense here lately."

Joe Nemechek's lap of 20.204 seconds (93.724 mph) was enough to earn him the 
outside pole starting position. "I'm a little disappointed," said Nemechek, 
"but my hat's off to Kenny Wallace. That was a great lap. At least we know 
we've got a good car for the race, and starting on the front row at 
Martinsville ain't too shabby."

Wallace believes that the key to his pole-winning run was the high groove 
around the race track which he says he learned by watching fellow competitor 
Ricky Craven, who won the Busch Pole for this event in 1996. "The key at 
Martinsville to winning the race is to stay right on the curb," the driver 
of the #81 Square D Ford explained. "But the problem with getting a quick lap 
at Martinsville is that you have to slow up to go around the curb. This 
morning it was pushing a little bit. I ran in really hard and the car slid 
up, and when it slid up it was still turning. so I picked up the throttle and 
my car came off the high line and it kept the motor running. Instead of me 
following the curb and letting the motor down and dragstripping it up off the 
corner, I was able to keep the rpms up. That was my theory behind the high 
line, being able to go in hard and yet keeping the motor running coming off 
the corner."

Geoff Bodine will start his #7 QVC Ford Thunderbird third on the 
grid after turning a lap of 20.241 seconds (93.553 mph) while Jeff Gordon 
will line up the #24 DuPont Automotive Refinishes Chevy fourth (20.287 
seconds, 93.341 mph).

Ricky Rudd had brake trouble early in practice today and missed most of the 
session while the Tide crew made repairs. It worked out pretty well for the 
Chesapeake, VA native as he wheeled the #10 Ford around the track in 20.312 
seconds (93.226 mph) -- good enough for fifth fastest of the day. "We got 
behind in practice," said Rudd. We had a brake problem we had to work out. We 
got that worked out and we had about 50 minutes left in practice. But I can't 
complain. We're happy."

Mark Martin had a close encounter with the outside wall as he exited 
turn four on his second qualifying lap. As Martin negotiated the fourth turn, 
he apparently was a little too hot as the right side of the #6 Valvoline 
Thunderbird scuffed the wall. The resulting 20.555-second lap was not good 
enough to lock Martin into a starting position and he will decide tomorrow 
whether to attempt to requalify. The Roush Racing driver didn't feel like the 
incident did significant damage to his car. "It's not hurt," he said. "We 
just scraped the wall a little bit. I was going for it on the second lap 
there. The first lap wasn't good enough, so I was going for it. I got a 
little crossed up going into (turn) 1 and still tried to pull something out 

Sterling Marlin was unable to make a qualifying attempt when his 
Morgan-McClure team couldn't quite get his backup car ready in time. Marlin 
wrecked his primary Chevrolet on the frontstretch during today's practice 

The 93.961 mph lap recorded by Wallace was enough to break the old event 
record of 93.887 mph (20.169 seconds) set by Geoff Bodine on April 23, 1993.
Forty-six drivers attempted to qualify with the fastest twenty-five locked 
into starting positions for Sunday's 500-mile event. Second round qualifying 
to round out the possible 43-car field is scheduled for Saturday, April 19.

Forty-five minutes after facing the press for his post-race interview, Kenny 
Wallace was still bouncing off the walls as he joked and laughed with 
reporters. "Why can't I be happy?" he exclaimed. "I beat Rusty Wallace, Dale 
Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon. If I can't have a little satisfaction out of 
that why the hell am I racing?"