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Seeking finish to equal start

Bill Elliott earned another pole but needs his car to run until the end to contend this time.

©Associated Press
July 28, 2002

LONG POND, Pa. -- Bill Elliott knows the value of a fast lap, and hopes to parlay his latest into a record-setting victory today at Pocono Raceway.

"In any race as competitive as all these cars are, it's important to start up front," Elliott said.

But he also realizes the qualifying lap Friday that gave him a record-tying fifth pole on the mountaintop won't be worth much unless his Dodge is healthy late in the Pennsylvania 500.

Elliott was reminded of that a week ago. He sat on the pole at New Hampshire but wound up 34th when a carburetor failed.

Under NASCAR's one-engine rule, a premium is placed on engine durability. Still, Elliott won't attempt to maintain a pace below all out. "I don't know if you can get away with that," he said. "Everybody seems to run to the limit all day long."

Ricky Rudd did plenty of that last month, dominating the latter stages of the Pocono 500. But he developed a tire problem in the final five laps and lost to teammate Dale Jarrett.

Rudd was upset, but at least he had an opportunity to race, something he says was denied to all in New Hampshire. Poor track conditions July 21 turned the New England 300 into a demolition derby of sorts.

"It's nice to have a racetrack that we can race on," he said. "You can run two wide."

In fact, drivers after restarts can run four or five abreast on the front straightaway at Pocono, dicing for position.

Elliott, who tied Ken Schrader's track record with his fifth pole at Pocono, realizes patience can be a liability if a driver doesn't try to stay close to the front.

"That's important, especially late in the race," said Elliott, who will try for a record fifth victory at Pocono. He is one of four drivers with four wins at the triangular, 2.5-mile track.

Dale Jarrett, who starts 15th, has won three times at Pocono. But the car he won with in June is in the shop, and he doesn't know what to expect because crew chief Todd Parrott wanted to make a change.

Also expected to make a strong bid is Michael Waltrip, a winner July 6 in the Pepsi 400. His Chevrolet starts third, inside Elliott's teammate, two-time Pocono winner Jeremy Mayfield.

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