HAMPTON, Ga. -- As Fords continued to dominate qualifying in NASCAR's Winston Cup series, Mark Martin and Dick Trickle stole the spotlight yesterday while sweeping the front row for tomorrow's Motorcraft 500.
Trickle, Rookie of the Year two years ago as a 48-year-old, was a major surprise when he turned a lap of 179.664 mph to break the Atlanta Motor Speedway qualifying record of 179.499 set by Rusty Wallace in November 1988.
But Martin, known for his prowess in qualifying, put his Roush Racing Thunderbird on the pole minutes later with a lap of 179.923 on the 1.522-mile oval.
"This one was a surprise, and those are the best ones," said Martin, who earned his 18th career pole and first at Atlanta. "With 20 minutes of practice to go, we were way behind. We weren't a candidate for the top five. We had one spring change left and we did it because I thought we needed it to go better. It feels good to come from behind and surprise yourself. There've been too many times where we've not won the pole."
Terry Labonte was another surprise, taking third at 179.006 in a ++ Chevrolet Lumina, while Bill Elliott, the pre-qualifying favorite after three front-row starts in a row this season -- including a pole last week at Richmond, Va. -- was a somewhat disappointing fourth at 178.948 in another T-Bird.
1. Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 179.923 (track record; previous record 179.499, Rusty Wallace, Nov. 1988). 2. Dick Trickle, Ford Thunderbird, 179.664. 3. Terry Labonte, Chevrolet Lumina, 179.006. 4. Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 178.948. 5. Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Lumina, 178.685. 6. Sterling Marlin, Ford Thunderbird, 178.220. 7. Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Lumina, 178.133. 8. Alan Kulwicki, Ford Thunderbird, 178.122. 9. Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 177.879. 10. Harry Gant, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 177.769.
11. Rick Mast, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 177.297. 12. Rusty Wallace, Pontiac Grand Prix, 176.925. 13. Darrell Waltrip, Chevrolet Lumina, 176.823. 14. Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 176.783. 15. Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 176.225. 16. Ted Musgrave, Chevrolet Lumina, 175.954. 17. Dale Jarrett, Chevrolet Lumina, 175.903. 18. Greg Sacks, Chevrolet Lumina, 175.677. 19. Bobby Hamilton, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 175.492. 20. Jimmy Spencer, Chevrolet Lumina, 175.351.