Qualifying: Mayfield claims pole

Evernham Motorsports' Jeremy Mayfield won his first pole since Rockingham, 2000, on Friday, in qualifying for Sunday's Aaron's 499 NASCAR race at Talladega. Mayfield took his opportunity early on as sporadic rain tested drivers nerves. He toured the 2.6-mile oval in 51.349s (186.489mph) and held off all comers through the long four-hour session

Qualifying: Mayfield claims pole

"I really believe we've got good race team here and I knew were going to have a good car," he said. "I just didn't know it was going to be this good. It's the best performance since I've been here with this team."

Favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr, who led by nearly a second in practice, suffered from misjudged carburettor jetting on his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, as the weather faded in and out. In the end he came a disappointing 14th, 0.5s slower than the pole and 0.7s slower than he ran in practice.

In general, the whole session was slower than predicted in practice. Kevin Harvick qualified second, by far his best of the season, at 51.438s. Elliott Sadler was third at 51.471s, with Jeff Gordon fourth and Mayfield's team-mate Bill Elliott fifth.

The qualifying order turned into a complete jumble with more than a dozen cars failing inspection, some having to go through three or four times. Others, such as Tony Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet and Dave Blaney's No. 77 Jasper Engines Ford, had mechanical trouble in practice and dropped to the back of the field.

David Green and Larry Foyt's times were were disallowed for running too low at the rear, despite a NASCAR allowance for cars to 'settle' when returned to the garage. Foyt joins Brett Bodine on the 'failed to qualify' list, while the cars that qualified behind Green's impressive sixth move up to fill his spot. The Haas Automation Chevrolet team paid the price of attending only one other event this season, in not having enough owner points to guarantee Green a provisional starting position.

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