Mears breaks his qualifying mark, takes 4th Phoenix pole in row


PHOENIX -- Rick Mears lived up to expectations yesterday breaking his Phoenix International Raceway qualifying record on the way to winning the pole position for the Valvoline 200.

The master of Indy-car oval racing did nothing to hurt his standing as the favorite to win today's 200-lap race for the third straight year.

His fast lap of 168.334 mph broke the mark of 168.169 that Mears set last April on the one-mile oval and relegated Michael Andretti, who had won the first two poles of the season, to the outside of the front row with a lap of 167.989.

It's the fourth straight year that Mears has won the Phoenix pole. Asked whether he believes he owns the Phoenix track, Mears smiled and replied, "No, I only rent it."

Andretti, sitting alongside the pole-winner, quipped, "How many years is the lease?"

It was the 35th career pole for the 39-year-old Mears, who chopped one point of Bobby Rahal's series lead. Mears, in second place after two races, trails Rahal, 32-27.

"I guess people do have a lot of expectations about me on the short ovals, and it makes me shake a little more waiting around to qualify," Mears said. "I do feel a little more pressure, but we try not to do anything different. You know, we're trying to win the pole and the race everywhere we go."

Mario Andretti, Michael's father and teammate, was a solid third at 167.950, his fast lap timed at just .005-seconds slower than his son's.

Rahal was fourth at 166.582, followed by Mears' teammate Emerson Fittipaldi at 166.121, and Danny Sullivan at 165.807 in the only Alfa-Romeo-powered entry. That is Alfa's best starting position since the Italian manufacturer returned to Indy-car racing in 1989.

Mears said one of the keys to today's race will be traffic.

1. Rick Mears, Bakersfield, Calif., Penske-Chevrolet, 168.33 (breaks own track qualifying record of 168.169 set in 1990); 2. Michael Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., Lola-Chevrolet, 167.989; 3. Mario Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., Lola-Chevrolet, 167.950; 4. Bobby Rahal, Dublin, Ohio, Lola-Chevrolet, 166.582; 5. Emerson Fittipaldi, Brazil, Penske-Chevrolet, 166.121; 6. Danny Sullivan, Aspen, Colo., Lola-Alfa Romeo, 165.807; 7. John Andretti, Indianapolis, Lola-Chevrolet, 164.617; 8. Al Unser Jr., Albuquerque, N.M., Lola-Chevrolet, 164.032; 9. Arie Luyendyk, the Netherlands, Lola-Chevrolet, 163.250; 10. Scott Brayton, Coldwater, Mich., Lola-Chevrolet, 162.096.

11. Eddie Cheever, Aspen, Colo., Lola-Chevrolet, 160.686; 12. Scott Pruett, Dublin, Ohio, Truesports-Judd, 159.908; 13. Mike Groff, Northridge, Calif., Lola-Cosworth, 159.102; 14. Jeff Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., Lola-Cosworth, 158.842; 15. Scott Goodyear, Canada, Lola-Judd, 156.128; 16. Tony Bettenhausen, Indianapolis, 1990 Penske Chevrolet, 155.575; 17. Hiro Matsushita, Japan, Lola-Cosworth, 155.467; 18. Al Unser, Albuquerque, N.M., 1990 Lola-Chevrolet, 155.333; 19. Guido Dacco, Italy, 1989 Lola-Cosworth, 152.866; 20. Randy Lewis, Hillsborough, Calif., Lola-Cosworth, 150.621.

21. Mark Dismore, Greenfield, Ind., 1988 Penske-Buick, 142.931.; Jeff Wood, Wichita, Kan., 1990 Lola-Cosworth, no speed.

First Union 400

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Defending champion Brett Bodine won the pole for the stock-car race with a speed of 116.237 mph.

Bodine edged Alan Kulwicki and Kyle Petty for the top spot in today's NASCAR race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Bodine, in a Buick, circled the track in 19.357 seconds.

Kulwicki, in a Ford Thunderbird, ran the .625-mile track in 19.368 and had a speed of 116.171 mph. Petty, in a Pontiac, finished at 19.403 and 115.962 mph.

Bodine, who won his first and only Winston Cup race in last year's First Union 400, said earning the pole is a boost to his team's morale after a slow start this year.

Rounding out the top five for today's race are Harry Gant in an Oldsmobile and Rusty Wallace in a Pontiac. Gant went 115.782 mph and Wallace 115.776 mph.

Today's race will be the first that NASCAR has run this year

under its old pit-row rules, which were abandoned after last season after one of Bill Elliott's tire-changers was killed in a pit-row accident.

Now, the responsibility for driving more carefully through pit row will be on the driver. Drivers will be penalized for accidents along the row.

(The top 30 drivers were determined in qualifying yesterday, with positions 31 through 33 designated as provisional)--1. Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Buick Regal, 116.237 mph; 2. Alan Kulwicki, Greenfield, Wis., Ford Thunderbird, 116.171; 3. Kyle Petty, High Point, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 115.961; 4. Harry Gant, Taylorsville, N.C., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 115.782; 5. Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Pontiac Grand Prix, 115.776; 6. Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 115.640; 7. Rick Mast, Rockbridge Baths, Va., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 115.473; 8. Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford Thunderbird, 115.444; 9. Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet Lumina, 115.367; 10. Joe Ruttman, Upland, Calif., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 115.237.

11. Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Chevrolet Lumina, 115.213; 12. Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Pontiac Grand Prix, 115.125; 13. Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet Lumina, 115.101; 14. Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Chevrolet Lumina, 115.037; 15. Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Buick Regal, 115.007; 16. Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Buick Regal, 114.995; 17. Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet Lumina, 114.907; 18. Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Chevrolet Lumina, 114.907; 19. Mickey Gibbs, Glencoe, Ala., Pontiac Grand Prix, 114.890; 20. Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford Thunderbird, 114.884.

21. Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Pontiac Grand Prix, 114.849; 22. Ernie Irvan, Modesto, Calif., Chevrolet Lumina, 114.732; 23. Dave Marcis, Wausau, Wis., Chevrolet Lumina, 114.562; 24. Rick Wilson, Bartow, Fla., Buick Regal, 114.492; 25. Bobby Hillin, Midland, Texas, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 114.422; 26. Davey Allison, Hueytown, Ala., Ford Thunderbird, 114.271; 27. Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 114.242; 28. Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Pontiac Grand Prix, 114.173; 29. Morgan Shepherd, Conover, N.C., Ford Thunderbird, 114.155; 30. Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 114.121; 31. Charlie Glotzbach, Columbia, Tenn., Ford Thunderbird, 112.472; 32. Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford Thunderbird, 113.993; 33. Richard Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac Grand Prix, 113.861.

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