DAVID GILLILAND/#38 M&M's has the NASCAR Nextel Cup pole position for the 2007 Daytona 500. His lap of 48.304 secs, 186.320 mph in the Bud Pole Qualifying for the 49th Running of the Daytona 500 was the twenty-sixth time set as the field of 61 drivers lined up to take their two-lap run around the 2.5-mile tri-oval track.

Gilliland's time wasn't as fast as the 2006 pole lap of 47.581/189.151 mph set by JEFF BURTON/Chevrolet, but wind could have been a factor. The wind came up early on and often the flag was seen flight straight out, compared to its limp status Saturday. Overall speeds Sunday were down from Saturday. Twenty-four qualifiers were in the 48 seconds range, while thirty-five were in that range Saturday afternoon. The overall record lap of 210.364 mph set in 1987 is still held by BILL ELLIOT/Ford.

Gilliland's Richard Yates Racing team-mate, RICKY RUDD/#88 Snickers Ford, was second fastest with 48.489/185.609 mph, making it a chocolate front row. Rudd had been fastest in the two Saturday practices, with a 48.190/186.761 mph Saturday afternoon. He is coming out of a short hiatus from racing to return full time to Cup racing.

Third fastest Sunday afternoon was DAVID STREMME/#40 Coors Light Dodge with a lap of 48.521/185.487 mph. Afterwards he said "It was good. The guys worked hard in the shop. They did a really good job. The one thing is that the new Dodge nose has helped us out and it's just an all around effort from everybody."

Stremme's Chip Ganassi teammate, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA of Colombia was the Top Rookie, in fourth place. Montoya ran 48.560/185.338 mph in #42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. Montoya said "I think it is more about the car. The interesting thing to see is how it's going to be in the draft and how is the car going to handle. Yes, it is fast so far. We are probably going to finish in the top 5, but we will see. The 150s are going to be a good lesson for me to learn a lot for the 500. That is where a rookie comes in running in the packs and know where to put the car." JPM ran the last race of the 2006 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway,

Rookie DAVID RAGAN/#6 AAA Ford was fifth, in the Roush car replacing MARK MARTIN, who is no longer running a full Cup season. Ragan said "I don't really have a lot of time to think about what's to come. We just have to focus on the next race and the next task at hand and, so far, it's really been fun. Everyone at AAA and Ford and Roush Racing has put together an excellent team here. We're just glad to be here. We've got a great race car and we're looking forward to the 150s on Thursday."

Martin, running #01 US Army Chevrolet in the 500, was thirty-fifth fastest, but smiling ear to ear about his new party-time driving role combined with mentoring development drivers. His words - "I'd take my Budweiser Shootout car and start dead last in the 500 and be happy and never turn another lap between now and then. Because all this other stuff in between is just filler. The 500 is all I care about and I had a great-handling car."

A very relieved BORIS SAID/#60 Sobe-No Fear Ford qualified sixth, with a lap of 48.593/185.212 mph, and is assured of a starting position in next Sunday's Daytona 500. On the radio coming back to the pits, he told FRANK STODDARD, his crew chief, "It's over. I can eat now." Said had been nervous for days about having to qualify on time. Afterwards he said "It's like losing two cinderblocks from my shoulders. To be in the show is just straight. I can't believe the day is over. It took a few years off me today." Said added that "three of us are happy and twenty-five have to sweat it all week."

NASCAR has a complicated Daytona 500 Qualifying System, which takes a middle school math major or a cartoon to explain. Thirty-five teams have guaranteed starting positions all season based on their 2006 Owner Points standings. Three of Sunday's qualifiers 'made the cut' and won't have to sweat their finish in the Dual 150's, officially called the Gatorade Duel at Daytona Qualifying Races, held next Thursday. All sixty-one entries are entitled to run the Duals, with the field divided in half. Drivers who qualified in even-numbered positions will run the first race, and drivers with odd-number qualifying times will run in the second race.

The other two drivers making the Daytona 500 field are STERLING MARLIN/#14 Waste Management Chevrolet, who qualified eighth and JOHNNY SAUTER/#70 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet, who was ninth fastest. Twenty-two other drivers will vie for four available spots in the Duals. Marlin said "I thought we would run a little quicker than that, we were quicker in practice. The wind is blowing, slowing everybody down. Hopefully it will stay the same for everybody and stays up the whole session." Sauter got his wish to be one of the drivers locked in Sunday.

It will be more difficult for DALE JARRETT to make the field this season with his new Toyota team which has no previous owner points to guarantee him a starting position. NASCAR changed the rule last month to limit the number to six in one season for Provisional starts for Past Champions. Jarrett, running #44 UPS Toyota, was fiftieth fastest. The other Past Champion, BILL ELLIOTT/#37 Huddle House Dodge, was forty-third fastest. Both drivers move up two positions due to the disqualifications.

Daytona is one of two restrictor-plate races and is the first race of a long season, with new rules. Its scrutineering sessions are more rigorous than others all season, and the NASCAR Tech Inspectors found three violations.

KASEY KAHNE/#9 Dodge Dealer's Ford, RYAN NEWMAN/#12 Alltel Dodge, and MICHAEL WALTRIP/#55 NAPA Toyota all fell afoul of the NASCAR scrutineers.

Waltrip was the first problem to surface, before qualifying. His intake manifold was confiscated after Tech found an unapproved substance inside. Waltrip, who's crew chief is DAVID HYDER, found out about the problem before he went out in his qualifying run and was allowed to replace the offending part. However, the part is on its way to the NASCAR R&D Center in North Carolina. Garage gossip rumored the substance to be sterno. After qualifying, Waltrip's car was impounded. He finished twenty-fifth in qualifying, and was moved up one position after the disqualifications.

JIM HUNTER, NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications, said the manifold will have tests run on the offending substance and that NASCAR will go over the impounded car "with a fine tooth comb."

Waltrip could face penalties and possible suspension. Stay tuned for NASCAR's ruling on or before Tuesday. His crew chief is DAVID HYDER. Garage gossip rumored the substance to be sterno.

Kahne's and Kenseth's qualifying times were disallowed due to unapproved devices and they were moved to the bottom of the time sheet. Kenseth had run eleventh before the penalty - his car had illegal holes in the wheel well. His crew chief is ROBBY REISER. Kahne, who had been twenty-eighth fastest, had illegal holes in his car. His crew chief is KENNY FRANCIS. Hunter said the illegalities could have improved the aerodynamics of the cars. When asked, Hunter said in the eyes of NASCAR the infractions were similar to those on JIMMIE JOHNSON'S Chevrolet, and the repercussions would be similar. Johnson's crew chief, CHAD KNAUS was suspended for the first four races of the 2006 season including the Daytona 500 - which Johnson won.

Kahne and Kenseth can run the Duals, but they will have to start from the back of the pack.

The 61 entries for the 2007 Daytona 500 is the largest Daytona Cup field since 1995 - more than 60. There are now four manufacturers involved in the top tier of NASCAR's ranks - Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota - the new addition. Of the 61, 28 were Chevrolets, 14-Dodges, 11-Fords and eight Toyotas - seven of which will run all season. MIKE SKINNER/#23 Toyota will run selected races. He qualified eighteenth.

The Daytona 500 will be Gilliand's first Daytona race. But he is not a Rookie, having made fifteen Cup starts last year with the pole position at Talladega in October. His crew chief is TODD PARROTT, who was one of several NASCAR Crew Chiefs hanging out at the recent Rolex 24 at Daytona Grand-Am sports car race.

Gilliland was recently awarded the SPEED Greatest Upset Performance Award for his "David vs. Goliath" victory when he ran an unsponsored underfunded Busch Series car at Kentucky and won. His top Cup finish was twice in fifteenth position, and he finished forty-second in the points last year, out of 78 drivers.

Gilliland started racing Nextel Cup at the Infineon Raceway road course race - a track he had often run in the NASCAR Winston West and Southwest Tour Series - and ran selected races during the remainder of the 2006 season. He was one of the 21 cars in the Saturday night NASCAR Bud Shootout at Daytona Speedway, and finished second to winner TONY STEWART/No.20 Home Depot Chevrolet. Gilliland was in The Bud Shootout as he won the NASCAR Nextel Cup pole position at Talladega last October, and now he's the first one in the field for the 2008 Bud Shootout.

Another well-known open wheel racer, A.J. ALLMENDINGER of Los Gatos CA, is making the move to NASCAR. He is running #84 Red Bull Toyota. He was fortieth fastest but moved up to thirty-eighth with the two disqualifications. Sunday he said "Obviously, I'm nervous. I want to be in the race and all that but there's not a lot of guys that get to say they get to come do this and experience Daytona. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it so were just going to keep plugging away." This is AJ's third attempt to make the field in a Cup race. Last fall he DNQ at Texas Motor Speedway and had no chance to qualify at Atlanta Motor Speedway when qualifying was rained out.

JAMES HARVEY HYLTON, at 72, is the oldest driver in the Daytona 500 field, who was the second to last driver in qualifying in #58 Retirement Living Chevrolet. He hasn't run NASCAR since 1983, but has done some sporadic ARCA races. Hylton won two Cup races, in 1970, and again at Talladega in 1972, which DARRELL WALTRIP remembers as his first ever Cup race. Hylton told DW that he gets to practice and qualify, and knew it would be a stretch to make the field. Hylton said "I am a little bit of a rookie again - a little bit rusty but it's coming back. That was great. It felt real good."

In other NASCAR Nextel Cup news, NASCAR mandated a smaller fuel tank for the Nextel Cup races at Las Vegas and Charlotte. There were tyre problems during the recent official test Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so NASCAR wanted to make a way for the cars to pit more often. The usual size fuel cell is 17.75 gallons, but for Las Vegas the size is reduced to 13.5 gallons.

Goodyear Tyres has extended its contract with NASCAR through 2012 as sole tire supplier for the three NASCAR top tier series.

The Dual 150's will be televised live Thursday live on SPEED TV, starting at 2:30 pm EST and broadcast live on MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.


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