Michael Andretti takes Long Beach Grand Prix pole


LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Michael Andretti kept plugging until it all came together yesterday, hanging onto the pole position for today's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The defending IndyCar PPG Cup champion, who won the provisional pole Friday on a street circuit that this year is shorter and faster than previous years, turned a lap of 106.894 mph with only about four minutes remaining in yesterday's session to grab his second straight pole and 10th in the past 20 events.

Danny Sullivan, a former CART series champion who struggled through a frustrating year in 1991 with the now-departed Alfa Romeo engine program, took the outside spot on the front row with a last-minute lap of 106.191 before slamming nose-first into a tire wall.

"At least we were able to run the whole session," said Andretti, who was somewhat frustrated in the first two events this season by mechanical ills. "Even when we were on used tires [midway through the 30-minute session], we made some adjustments and improved our speed.

"I knew when we got new tires on [at the end], we'd improve."

Today's race is scheduled to go 105 laps.

"Look at the grid; look at how tight it is," Andretti said. "Any one of the top 10 drivers could win this thing."

Sullivan said the new track configuration -- 0.69 miles and three turns shorter and considerably quicker than the old layout -- will make it easy to pass slow cars, but will keep things plenty competitive up front.

First Union 400

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C.-- Michael Waltrip was the fastest second-day qualifier for the First Union 400 NASCAR race.

Waltrip, driving a Pontiac, turned in a speed of 115.616 mph to tie Harry Gant's speed from Friday and move into 17th starting position for today's $551,921 event. Alan Kulwicki grabbed his second pole in a row with a speed of 117.242 Friday.

However, Waltrip was the big winner yesterday, moving up nine starting positions from Friday's poor first-day qualifying run.

"This place always is a little on the slick side when it comes to qualifying," said Waltrip, who has one top-five finish in six races this season. "I babied the car yesterday, but today, I just said 'the heck with it' and went for it."

Gant, who missed making the field Friday by .041 seconds and is a favorite, was one of 10 drivers to stand on their first day speeds.

In addition to Waltrip, Bill Elliott, a four-time winner this season, picked up four positions with a run of 115.420 and will start 20th in a Ford.

Lowe's 150


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Paul Spencer of Berwick, Pa., held off Jay Hedgecock of High Point by a car length following a storm and late wreck in the Lowe's 150 NASCAR modified division race.

Pole-sitter Bobby Hutchens broke a valve spring early in the 150-lap race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, leaving Hedgecock and the weather as Spencer's biggest challenges.

Hedgecock, whose qualifying speed of 120.896 yesterday was faster than any of the drivers who qualified a day earlier, was able to close the gap on Spencer after the race was red-flagged for about 30 minutes because of rain.

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