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Weather aids first pole win for Blaney

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Dave Blaney won the first pole of his career Friday when most teams chose not to bother with qualifying on a cold, wet day at North Carolina Speedway.

Practice and qualifying were delayed by rain, and with the possibility of more bad weather before Sunday's Subway 400, most teams spent Friday's only practice session working on race setups.

It made for lackluster qualifying runs, with Blaney taking the top spot with a lap run of 154.683 mph in the No. 77 Ford.

"That's pretty cool," Blaney said. "But Sunday is when it really counts and that would be really cool."

It was Blaney's first pole in 113 Winston Cup starts. His past best starting spot was third last year in Richmond, Va. Johnny Benson, who scored his only Winston Cup victory here in November, qualified second in a Pontiac at 154.553 mph.

Mark Martin was third in the same Ford that finished second here last year. Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott qualified fourth and fifth in Dodges. Bobby Labonte was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet at 10th, quite a dropoff after the Monte Carlos dominated at the Daytona 500.

As crews sat idle in their garage stalls during the morning, most made the decision to swap their setups from qualifying trim into race mode just in case today's practice session is washed away.

"I'll just say that not many people worked that hard on qualifying today," Martin said. "This is not a typical day and this is one of the greatest racetracks there is for racing and passing. So I don't think anyone was concerned about having to start in the back here."

That's where most of the top names will begin Sunday.

Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip will start 22nd, four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon 23rd and series champion Tony Stewart 33rd.

DAYTONA PENALTIES: NASCAR fined seven crew chiefs for violations found at the Daytona 500. Peter Sospenzo, crew chief for Joe Nemechek, was fined $2,000 for using springs that did not meet NASCAR specifications. Dennis Connor, chief for rookie Jack Sprague, was fined $1,000 for using external probe heaters. James Ince, chief for Johnny Benson, was fined $500 for illegal underpans.

Fined $500 for using illegal fuel filters were Chris Carrier (Mike Skinner), Mike Beam (Jeff Green) and Tony Gibson (Steve Park). Raymond Fox was fined $250 for using illegal fender braces on Elliott Sadler's car.

ROCKINGHAM 200: David Green won the pole for today's Busch series race at North Carolina Speedway, knocking Winston Cup rookie Jamie McMurray from the top starting spot with a late run.

McMurray, who won the Busch race in Rockingham in November, sat on the pole for most of qualifying by running a lap at 154.318 mph around the high-banked 1.017-mile oval. Then Green ran a late lap at 154.429 mph in his Pontiac to bump McMurray's Dodge into second.

"It's a nice place to start," said Green, who picked up his 20th Busch pole, third at Rockingham and first with his new team at Brewco Motorsports.

McMurray drove for Brewco last season until he was plucked for a Winston Cup ride by Chip Ganassi Racing. Green is using most of McMurray's old crew.

Scott Riggs qualified third in a Ford, Kasey Kahne fourth in his career-best qualifying effort and Jason Keller fifth. Keller was in a fiery wreck at Daytona last weekend and said he still is feeling a little woozy.

NHRA NATIONALS: Tony Pedregon, winner of the season-opening event in California, was fastest in Funny Car qualifying at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz. He finished in 4.797 seconds at 317.57 mph in a Ford Mustang.

Doug Kalitta was quickest in Top Fuel, 4.529 at 329.02 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Warren Johnson topped Pro Stock in a track-record run of 6.835 at 201.67 in a Pontiac Grand Am.

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