Harvick earns first pole of career at Pepsi 400

G. Bodine qualifies 2nd, Earnhardt Jr. ninth


July 06, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick earned his first career pole position yesterday in qualifying for tonight's Pepsi 400.

Harvick lapped the 2.5-mile superspeedway at 185.040 mph in his Richard Childress-owned Chevrolet.

"We've been a little bit behind," said Harvick, who is 32nd in the Winston Cup points standings. "We've had a lot of bad luck. But Richard has really been on everybody in the motor department, the fab [fabrication] shop and they've all stepped it up. Now, everything came together and they ripped off a lap. I didn't do anything but ride around in it."

Harvick's performance was a surprise for a team that has struggled all season, but certainly no bigger than that of veteran Geoffrey Bodine, who earned the outside pole as the second fastest at 184.373 mph in his Ford. This is only the third race of the season for the team this season and fourth for Bodine, who was nearly killed here in a truck race in 2000.

Earnhardt Jr. favorite

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Pepsi 400 in a stirring race last July, four months after the death of his father on this same speedway, and is the favorite to win again tonight.

Earnhardt qualified ninth and will start on the inside of the fifth row. He says he relishes the idea of either he or teammate Michael Waltrip getting another win for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

"It was pretty cool coming in here and winning that race with Michael. We've kind of teamed up over the past couple of restrictor-plate races to get to victory," said Earnhardt, who with his teammate has won four of the past six plate races. "We almost get to the point sometimes where we vie over who should've won, who should've followed who.

"But I feel like, no matter what the feeling is going into the race, when it comes down to it, we got each other's back. If we don't do it for ourselves, we do it for Daddy. What matters is to get a win for DEI."

Bits and pieces

Busch Series driver Kerry Earnhardt will drive a Winston Cup car at Talladega, Ala. ... Petty Enterprises said it is seeking a primary sponsorship for the No. 45 Dodge driven by Kyle Petty for the 2003 season and beyond. Sprint recently notified the team it will not pick up the option in its contract to continue.

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