LONG POND, Pa. -- Ken Schrader won his third pole position of the NASCAR season yesterday with a track record of 162.816 mph at Pocono International Speedway, overtaking Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace for the lead in poles this year.
Now Schrader is searching for his first victory of the year.
"I'd trade this pole for a win," Schrader said after qualifying runs for tomorrow's Champion Spark Plug 500. "I'd rather win 'em both though."
Last year Schrader gained the pole for the same race, setting what was then a record of 162.499 mph. But that was followed by a disappointing fourth-place finish two days later.
By the time he left the pit yesterday -- as the third-to-last qualifier -- Schrader already had seen his 1992 record fall twice. Hut Stricklin established a record of 162.508, and Mark Martin eclipsed that minutes later with 162.534 mph, completing the lap in 55.373 seconds.
"I knew Mark Martin had run a 55.30 in practice [yesterday morning], so I knew we had our work cut out for us," said Schrader. "It was sunny when we went out, but it had been cloudy for just a little bit. I imagine the track was just a little bit cooler. Naturally, it was just the luck of the draw."
Schrader's record-setting run beat Martin's by .096 seconds.
"I don't know if I really know how to get around this track," Schrader said. "The last turn is the only real turn, except they run you into it so fast, it's not really banked for the speeds you get there. It's a very different race track."
Schrader said that he is racing much better than he did last year, when he failed to win a race. Schrader has not won in 59 races, since the Budweiser 500 in 1991.
Earnhardt, meanwhile, came to Pennsylvania as the hottest driver on the circuit, winner of the past two NASCAR races. But his speed of 161.894 mph placed him fifth.
"We had a pretty good lap," Earnhardt said. "We were off just a little bit in the tunnel turn. The car got out from under me just a little more than I wanted it to. We picked up a little bit from practice, and that's good for us. Usually we don't qualify that well up here. To start in the top five tickles me to death. We don't have to drive through all that junk now."
Today, positions 21-40 will be determined with the second set of qualifying runs, followed by the Winnebago/Cedar Ridge Sportsman 150 and the Champion Spark Plug ARCA 150 Race.