Bobby Labonte, reported to have been killed in a plane crash on Friday, proved to the world that he is alive and well as he claimed his first pole position of the 2001 season for his Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Incorrect reports on American radio stations and on the internet (not crash.net but the official nascar.com site) said that defending NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Bobby Labonte had been killed in a plane crash on Friday while en-route to the 2-mile California Speedway in Fontana although Labonte made sure he quelled all fears for his well-being by writing his own headlines by taking pole position for Sunday's NAPA 500.

Last year the Joe Gibbs Pontiac driver had to rely on a provisional starting spot in order to make the field and yet he still fought his way up from 37th on the grid to second place and he will be hoping that this performance will kick-start his thus far dismal 2001 season. Labonte rounded the two-mile track in a best time of 39.423 seconds in his No.18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac to claim his first Bud Pole award for 2001 and the 22nd of his career.

Todd Bodine's qualifying form returned with a vengeance on Saturday as he put the No.66 Haas-Carter Ford on the outside of row one in a best time of 39.428-seconds ahead of 2000 winner Jeremy Mayfield and the second Joe Gibbs Pontiac of Tony Stewart.

Current Winston Cup points leader Dale Jarrett will start fifth ahead of his Robert Yates Racing team-mate Ricky Rudd who was disappointed with his sixth place after taking fastest time in practice and Steve Park in the leading Chevrolet.

Johnny Benson, Jimmy Spencer and Mark Martin rounded out the top ten with Martin's best effort of 39.739-seconds a mere three tenths slower than Labonte. Best of the Dodge runners was John Andretti in the No.43 Petty Enterprises example while Brett Bodine put in another fighting qualifying performance to put his underfunded Ralph's Ford in 12th position.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Petty and Dave Blaney completed the top 15 with Petty ensuring that he would not have to spectate on race-day for the fifth time this season by posting his best qualifying effort since Bristol in the Sprint PCS Dodge.

Amongst those left scratching their heads after qualifying were Jeff Gordon (17th), Rusty Wallace (19th), Jeff Burton (21st) and Sterling Marlin (31st) while Jeff Green, making his first start in the Richard Childress owned No.30 America Online Chevrolet originally earmarked this year for Kevin Harvick, made the field comfortably in 28th spot.

Last weeks winner Bobby Hamilton experienced far differing fortunes in California as he resorted to a Provisional starting slot and will start 37th ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr who crashed in practice, Bristol winner Elliott Sadler, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader, last weeks Bud Pole winner Stacy Compton and Robert Pressley.

Missing the cut this time around were Kevin Lepage in the Morgan McClure owned Kodak Chevrolet, Buckshot Jones in the third Petty Enterprises machine and lady racer Shawna Robinson, whose bid to become the first lady to start a Winston Cup event for 13 years ended when she suffered a mechanical problem with her Michael Kranefuss owned Ford.