JEFF GORDON/#24 Dupont Chevrolet got his first wedding present from NASCAR Friday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway by getting the pole position for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Checker Auto Parts 500 race at Phoenix International Raceway, with a time of 26.773/134.464 mph. This is Gordon's fifty-sixth Cup pole position.
The current PIR Cup Qualifying track record of 26.499/135.854 mph set by RYAN NEWMAN in November 2004 still holds.
Gordon has been on pole at PIR but never won here...yet. The newly wed four time NASCAR Cup Champion said "It's all about winning for us, whether it's the race or the Championship." It's been a great week, I can tell you that. Life is good."
Gordon announced his engagement at the June Cup at Infineon Raceway and went on to win that race. He's hoping such a precedent will be repeated this weekend.
The top five qualifiers were running Chevrolet Monte Carlos: Gordon, KEVIN HARVICK/#29 Reese's Chevrolet, BRIAN VICKERS/#25 GMAC Chevrolet; DALE EARNHARDT Jr/#8 Budweiser Chevrolet; and JOE NEMECHEK/#01 Principal Financial Chevrolet.
BOBBY LABONTE/#43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge crashed during Qualifying, but was checked and released from the Infield Care Center. He qualified fifteenth, but now will run his backup car, falling to the back of the pack for the start of the race.
There were 51 drivers attempting to make the 312-lap race scheduled for 1:30 pm Sunday. Those who didn't make the show were: JASON LEFFLER/#71 Ft. McDowell Resort Chevrolet; TODD KLUEVER/#06 3M Ford; MORGAN SHEPHERD/#89 Victory in Jesus Racing Dodge; BRANDON ASH/#01 Sprinter Trucking Dodge; KEVIN LEPAGE/#34 Oak Gloves Chevrolet; KENNY WALLACE/#78 Furniture Row Chevrolet; DERRIKE COPE/#74 Sundance Vacations Dodge; and JEREMY MAYFIELD/#09 Miccosukee Resort Dodge.
Harvick was asked about last weekend's 'incident' after the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, when he and his wife DELANA and NASCAR official JOHN SACCO were shoved by a crew member of SCOTT RIGGS/#10 Valvoline Dodge team. Tuesday after the race NASCAR penalized CRAIG CURIONE for his actions in the incident. Curione has been suspended indefinitely and fined $10,000.
Harvick, when asked if he was pleased the way the situation was handled, said "Absolutely. It was handled as professionally as it could have been. Emotions run high after a race when things don't go your way. But they don't need to be handled that way. But everyone is all right and we'll just go on. By the time I got to work Monday, Ray (team owner RAY EVERNHAM) had called three times.
In 1995 Harvick was the Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series, and he went on to win the NASCAR Winston West Championship in 1998. Thursday night at PIR the last ever SWT race was won by J.R. NORRIS/#5 Victor Ford. Harvick was asked how he felt about it and why he didn't run in the race. He didn't answer why, but said "It's something I grew up racing with. I watched Carelli and Hornaday race for a long time. RICK CARELLI is a past champion in both SWT and Winston West, and is currently the General Manager for Kevin Harvick Incorporated. RON HORNADAY is a two-time champion in both the Craftsman Truck Series and SWT, and a current Truck competitor.