Rusty Wallace claims ninth Bud Pole Award

After winning his ninth Bud Pole Award of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, and setting a new track qualifying record at Phoenix International Raceway, Rusty Wallace's first press conference comment was: "I don't know where that came from!"

Rusty Wallace claims ninth Bud Pole Award

Wallace's record lap around the one-mile circuit in 26.830s (134.178mph) broke the record set by John Andretti last November of 132.714mph. Of course, Wallace could have been somewhat clueless about his lap because he was excited and happy about protege Ryan Newman's first appearance in the Cup Series securing the 10th-place slot on the grid for Sunday's Checker/Dura Lube 500. Wallace and Newman are running the same new Penske chassis - in other words, identical cars.

Wallace is the only driver to have scored three Bud Poles in the 13 races held at Phoenix.

"We unloaded and the car was just not handling right," said Wallace. "All I've got to tell you is we started out bad and ended up really, really good, but all it was, was changing springs and shocks and gears and just giving the car what it needed.

"We just took a guess with what we thought we would need out here and, as everybody knows, the set-ups from this year to last year aren't even in the same book. Everything is so much different this year with the tyres and all that, but we gave the car what it wanted and it really performed good."

Wallace watched Newman click off his lap.

"I was more proud for him than I was me. I thought we'd qualify good with eight poles, I don't really need a lot more, but for Ryan to come out for his first time and be 2000 miles away from home and all that pressure on him.

"He went out and at that particular time he was fourth when I was watching him and, man, I was just excited. I was really happy because it's just a neat deal for Team Penske."

Newman, a student from South Bend, Indiana, was excited about his first official effort as well, admitting that he felt the pressure.

"Going out and letting 27 seconds of your life determine your future is pretty pressurising, but, like I said, everybody here is a friend of mine and a member of the family and they're not gonna throw me under the bridge."

Jeff Burton was on the provisional pole with a 134.103mph effort until Wallace ruined his chance to start on the point.

"I was real happy with what we did," said Burton. "We were able to pick up a couple tenths from what we ran in practice. We were like third-fastest in practice and we did pick up a couple tenths while most people picked up just a little bit, so I was really happy with it.

"I'm not disappointed that we didn't get the pole because I think we ran as fast as we could run and when you do that and somebody beats you, they just beat you."

Quite possibly more excited than even Wallace is Robert Pressley, who will start third after a 27.011 second 133.279mph tour.

"We unloaded pretty good. The car is the one we had down at Homestead for a two-day test and we were real happy," said Pressley.

"We just cleaned it up a little bit and brought it out here, so I felt we had a really good car after we unloaded it. We were the quickest in the first practice and in the second practice we went to the bottom of the board, so I was hoping we could end up in the middle somewhere."

Following Pressley will be Johnny Benson and Steve Park rounding out the top-five. Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Newman fill out the remaining top-10 spots.

Jeremy Mayfield claimed the final first-round guaranteed spot, leaving, among others, John Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Jerry Nadeau and Tony Stewart to ponder whether another try on Saturday would be helpful or not.

In the series championship points standings, Bobby Labonte leads Dale Earnhardt by 201 markers heading to Sunday's event.

Qualifying for the remainder of the field takes place at 17:15GMT Saturday evening.

2 Rusty Wallace Ford 26.830 134.178
99 Jeff Burton Ford 26.845 134.103

77 Robert Pressley Ford 27.011 133.279
10 Johnny Benson Pont 27.032 133.175

1 Steve Park Chev 27.035 133.161
55 Kenny Wallace Chev 27.044 133.116

36 Ken Schrader Pont 27.044 133.116
6 Mark Martin Ford 27.054 133.067

18 Bobby Labonte Pont 27.055 133.062
02 Ryan Newmann Ford 27.061 133.033

50 Ricky Craven Chev 27.063 133.023
17 Matt Kenseth Ford 27.064 133.018

93 Dave Blaney Pont 27.073 132.974
26 Jimmy Spencer Ford 27.107 132.807

27 Mike Bliss Pont 27.147 132.611
4 Bobby Hamilton Chev 27.182 132.441

28 Ricky Rudd Ford 27.183 132.436
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chev 27.184 132.431

22 Ward Burton Pont 27.186 132.421
75 Wally Dallenbach Ford 27.211 132.299

32 Scott Pruett Ford 27.220 132.256
16 Kevin Lepage Ford 27.223 132.241

11 Brett Bodine Ford 27.240 132.159 24
Jeff Gordon Chev 27.248 132.120

12 Jeremy Mayfield Ford 27.251 132.105

EXCLUSIVE: Labonte on Earnhardt

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