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Strong, silent type of run earns slumping Harvick pole position

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 6, 2002

DAYTONA BEACH -- Kevin Harvick's self-imposed silence was interrupted Friday when the controversial driver won the pole for tonight's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Speed talks.

Harvick, mired in a disappointing sophomore season, lapped the 2.5-mile tri-oval in 48.638 seconds, 185.041 mph for his first career pole is 51 races and second front-row start at Daytona.

"The last couple months I've had to sit back and not say anything, avoid everything that was going on and just concentrate on our race team," said Harvick, 32nd in points driving the No.29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. "We've just been sitting back and laughing about everything that's been written."

Harvick's season hit bottom in April, when NASCAR parked him for the Winston Cup event for rough driving in the Craftsman Truck series. But reports of a rift between Richard Childress and Harvick, who replaced the late Dale Earnhardt after his fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500, are erroneous, both men said.

"Kevin and I sat down and talked all that out," said Childress, who is close to signing Harvick to a multiyear contract extension. "We didn't have a major problem. The problem was all the rumors. People do that in this sport, they kick you when you're down."

Geoffrey Bodine, making his third start of the season, joined Harvick in the front row with a lap of 48.814 seconds in the No.09 Ford. Bodine finished third in the Daytona 500.

Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet was third.

Among the drivers who used provisionals to make the field: Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, Matt Kenseth and Penske Racing teammates Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman. Ed Berrier and Steve Grissom failed to qualify.

SOGGY SETUPS: Rain canceled both Winston Cup practice sessions, which means teams will not have practiced with their cars in race trim before tonight's event. The teams practiced twice Friday in qualifying trim. "It's Daytona, we've all run here," Mark Martin said. "It doesn't make much difference."

SOAP BOX HEROES: NASCAR announced a multiyear partnership with the All-American Soap Box Derby as part of its Youth Program initiative. The goals are to increase awareness of the 68-year-old grass-roots organization, which holds nearly 350 local events nationwide for ages 9-17.

The 65th Soap Box Derby championship is July 27 in Akron, Ohio.

"The All-American Soap Box Derby is a long-standing American tradition that possesses many of the core values of NASCAR, including teamwork, the spirit of competition, perseverance and sportsmanship," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.

BONUS BABIES: Five drivers are eligible for a $1-million bonus for winning: Martin, Gordon, Kenseth, Ricky Rudd and Ricky Craven. Each is paired with a fan who also would win $1-million.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think an intoxicated orangutan could do what I just did."

-- Winston Cup driver Michael Waltrip, who will start seventh, on the driver's contribution to the qualifying lap.

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