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.

Harvick said "You don't ever want to see things go, but the new direction is good for the experience for the younger drivers. The direction (NASCAR is taking) is right."

Harvick, 2006 Busch Champion, was asked about the new NASCAR competitors coming from open wheel racing. He said "Juan (JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/#42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) has a good respect of how hard it is, and he's going to get it. I don't know about Hornish (SAM HORNISH/#39 Mobil 1 Dodge) or Allmendinger (A.J. ALLMENDINGER, who will run full time in the 2007 Cup Series with Red Bull Toyota.) I haven't raced against them yet. But I think it will take them some time to get used to it. I think they can drive. It's just a matter of how much time it will take. Chip (CHIP GANASSI, team owner for JPM) has made the commitment to get Juan to the places he needs to be. It won't be consistent for a while."

After Cup Qualifying, Harvick went out in Busch Series Happy Hour practice and was fastest with a 27.416/131.310 mph.

Always cutting to the chase (but not The Chase ... lately), JEFF BURTON/#31 Cingular Chevrolet thinks separate Cup points for The Chase is fundamentally incorrect. "It does not reward you based on how you did in the race. You should be judged against the whole field. I see the point and why some might be enamored of the concept. But you gain advantage by beating teams who didn't make the playoffs, so to speak.

Burton also disagrees with the concept of giving points for pole position. He feels more time should be focused on practice, and less on Qualifying. "Let's be honest. How many people watch it?" The focus should be on the race. The race is what people come to see and the ticket sales and television viewership shows that."

Burton's opinion of paying points past 35th is that all drivers past that point show receive the same points, making the points race better. His reasoning: "If you are running thirty-fifth, the only reason you aren't thirty-eighth is you got out of the wreck quicker than the other guys or you had your engine problem early enough in the race to fix it versus later in the race where the guys don't have time to fix it."

Burton was adamant that drivers should get bonus point for leading only if it is under a Green Flag.