Rookie DENNY HAMLIN of Chesterfield Virginia had his place in the sun Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. He qualified on the front row for both the NASCAR Busch Series Arizona 200 Race Presented by I Walk The Line movie and the NASCAR Nextel Cup Checker Auto Parts 500 Race.

Hamlin took his first-ever Cup pole with a lap of 26.831/134.173 mph in No.11 FedEx Express Chevrolet. He starts along side JIMMY JOHNSON, who currently is the closest Chase contender.

Hamlin's lap doesn't break the current record of 135.854 mph set last fall by RYAN NEWMAN.

Third through fifth are CARL EDWARDS, GREG BIFFLE and BOBBY LABONTE.

Points leader TONY STEWART will start ninth.

The top Rookie was TRAVIS KVAPIL, starting thirtieth.


Most of the announcements this weekend have confirmed rumours swirling in the garages.

JJ YELEY will race with Joe Gibbs Racing in No.18 Interstate Batteries, replacing the departing BOBBY LABONTE of North Carolina. Yeley will run most if not all of the 2006 Busch races in addition to the full Nextel Cup Series. Yeley will start twenty first in Saturday's Busch race in the Gibbs No.18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet.

Yeley's teammates will be Stewart in Cup and Hamlin in both Cup and Busch. Yeley's number will be #18 in both series. Hamlin will run #11 in Cup and #20 in Busch.

The first five races in Yeley's Cup car will be driven by 'retired' TERRY LABONTE, who can get the car into the field on the Past Champion's Provisional. Terry Labonte will also drive ten races in the No.44 Hendrick Chevrolet.

Terry Labonte will also race on both road courses in the Hall of Fame programme with ROGER STAUBACH and TROY AIKMAN, sharing the ride with TONY RAINES. That team has an alliance with JGR.

After that Yeley will race, and those events he doesn't drive could be covered by other development drivers, but nothing has been revealed.

Meanwhile, after ten years, 21 victories and one Cup Championship, BOBBY LABONTE is leaving JGR and moving to Petty Enterprises, where he will race No.43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge, teaming with owner KYLE PETTY.

Bobby Labonte already ran the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with his brother Terry and plans to do so again. Petty likes the idea and said if he was good and asked nicely, maybe he'd get to race with them. Petty and Bobby met in sports cars.

There finally has been resolution in the complicated driver swap between CHIP GANASSI, JACK ROUSH and ROGER PENSKE.

Jamie McMURRAY will leave Ganassi and go to Roush Racing - to the 97 car now instead of the No.6 car raced by MARK MARTIN. McMurray had been personally asked by Martin to be his replacement. As the deal dragged on, Martin showed his loyalty to Jack Roush and agreed to stay on another year, to train his replacement.

Now McMurray will swap with KURT BUSCH, who wants to go to Penske Racing.

McMURRAY said the whole swap deal had been up and down as late as five days ago he'd thought it was off and he'd be in No.42 Dodge another season - and he was fine with that. But, he said, "When you know what your future is another organisation, you want to move on."

McMurray said it was unfortunate that it "just didn't work out with Chip. I haven't gotten back to winning since that first victory in Charlotte October 2002." McMurray further said "Contracts are a great thing. It's wonderful for both sides, as long as everyone honours those, its fine."

McMurray said it would be tough partnering with REED SORENSON and DAVID STREMME, both Cup Rookies. "I still feel I'm young enough that I need to learn from people that have been around for a long time, and it was gonna be tough to learn a lot from two guys that felt like they were gonna be learning from me." McMurray Feels like it's a bonus to be Martin's teammate.

McMurray plans to be with RUSTY WALLACE's Busch team next season and run as many races as he can; and maybe run the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Rusty is "probably my best friend in the garage."

Ganassi probably will keep with his current three-car team and not expand as planned to a four-car team.

Roush Racing has released KURT BUSCH, who will move to Penske Racing to replace RUSTY WALLACE, who is 'retiring' from Cup racing. Busch will team with RYAN NEWMAN.

RICKY RUDD took more than a few by surprise this week by announcing his retirement. He didn't want to affect the performance of the team by announcing it any earlier. Nor did he want a final year, saying there was "no appeal to another major commitment." He said "I've got to get out. It's just time to get a breather. A lot of stuff has been put on hold. It's time to get that life back together. I don't have anything planned other than having some weekends in the home."


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