Darlington: Mayfield on pole by .006 second

Jeremy Mayfield will start on the Bud Pole for the 51st Pepsi Southern 500 presented by Pepsi - the annual Labour Day weekend tradition in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing.

Darlington: Mayfield on pole by .006 second

Mayfield, who missed the last two events due to an accident in July, lapped the 1.366-mile egg-shaped Darlington Raceway at 169.444 mph to become the 11th different Bud Pole Award winner this season and the fourth of his series career.

Mayfield's teammate, Rusty Wallace, has a total of eight Bud Poles so far this year. This was Mayfield's best qualifying effort since he sat on the pole at Talladega Superspeedway in April and his sixth top-ten start. Ward Burton's track-qualifying record set in March of 1996 remains the top dog -- 28.295 seconds at 173.797 mph.

"That was a great lap. I'm just really proud of this team," said Mayfield. "This team must be too tough to tame because this is a great race team. All the guys in the engine shop, I'm just really proud. We've been through a lot, especially the last four or five weeks -- all of us -- but we keep coming back and I'm proud of that.

"Darlington has been a place that I probably run better at than any place in the series and I haven't got a win yet. Every time we've got a chance to win, the rain comes so maybe if the rain stays away we'll be all right. "

Johnny Benson was second fastest with a lap of 169.409 mph - or just .006 second behind Mayfield. Benson will start inside the top-ten for the third time this season.

"I like Darlington," said Benson. "You've got to race the race track instead of everybody else."

Ward Burton, Mike Skinner and Mark Martin round out the top-five, with positions six through ten going to Dale Earnhardt, Scott Pruett, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Gordon.

Darrell Waltrip will be attempting to make his 800th series start on Sunday afternoon. Only Richard Petty, with 1,177 series starts, and Dave Marcis, with 873, top Waltrip's efforts. Waltrip could only make a run good enough for 40th during first-round qualifying, but now has provisionals available.

"We've been off a little bit all day," said Waltrip. "Every time I go out I gain, but we must not have gone out enough. We're sliding all over the place!

"This place is always slick. It's so hot today and humid it's hard to get the car to grip and we had some problems early on and didn't get to work on the car enough. I guess we'll be okay. I don't know if that will make the top 36 or not, but we're in the show and I guess that's all that matters."

Current series points leader Bobby Labonte had an even worse day qualifying 38th in a backup car. Labonte hit the Turn 3 wall hard during practice when the throttle hung.

Despite the NASCAR technical bulletin stating that kill switches be installed in Winston Cup cars, it didn't help Labonte.

"There are two of them in there, but I didn't have time to hit either one of them.

"The throttle did hang on it and I got into the wall. We can't find out why, don't know why and probably never will know why. It did it this time.it won't do it again."

Five Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidates made the field in first round qualifying with Pruett's seventh place effort being the best of the class. The other four are Dale Earnhardt, Jr., (13th), Mike Bliss (20th), Dave Blaney (22nd) and Matt Kenseth (24th).

Two-time series champ Terry Labonte and Steve Park both lost the powerplants in their Chevrolets. Stacy Compton spun coming off Turn 4 and failed to complete his lap. Other drivers who didn't make the grid on Friday are Sterling Marlin, John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton.

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