The 'Boy Wonder' Jeff Gordon struck again at Michigan on Friday as he ripped off a lap of 38.247-seconds to claim his fourth Bud Pole Award of the year for the No.24 Hendrick Motorsports team but a last gasp effort from Ricky Rudd ensured Gordon was biting his nails right until the end of the session.

The two-mile D shaped Michigan International Speedway rewards smooth driving and after his crushing performance in Dover last weekend, Jeff Gordon was the smoothest of them all in Bud Pole Qualifying for Sunday's Kmart 400 as he scored his 37th career Winston Cup Pole position.

Gordon, driving the No.24 flame painted DuPont Chevrolet, was the 12th car off pit-road and his lap of 38.247-seconds stood firm for the next 35 drivers with only Dave Blaney and Ricky Craven getting close to Skinner's No.31 Richard Childress owned Chevrolet, which looked set to join Gordon on the front row for Sunday's 200-lap event.

However when Ricky Rudd's black Texaco Havoline Ford rolled off pit-road as the 48th and last car to attempt a qualifying run, Gordon was suddenly pensive once more. Rudd had been quick in practice and was an old hand at MIS. Rudd's first lap was a 38.249-seconds effort, two thousandths slower than Gordon and although the driver of the No.28 machine went hell for leather once again on his second qualifying lap, Rudd couldn't topple Gordon from his perch.

Instead of forming the outside half of the front row, Skinner will lead off row two alongside Dave Blaney who looked to be a consistent qualifying threat earlier in the year before tailing off in recent weeks. Blaney's No.93 Dodge is still the best placed Intrepid in the field and is a definite boost to Bill Davis Racing, who has seen team patron Davis himself miss several races due to a painful kidney infection.

Craven and his PPI Motorsports squad were suitably pumped with a top five starting slot after a highly praiseworthy run to fourth overall at Dover last Sunday. Craven's time of 38.372-seconds came, as did Blaney's lap, late in the qualifying line as sun bathed the Speedway giving the track slightly more grip as the session wore on.

Bill Elliott, last year's August race pole-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr, top placed rookie Kevin Harvick, Jeremy Mayfield and Johnny Benson complete the top ten with Benson's No.10 Valvoline Pontiac the only wide-track Grand Prix inside the top 25 on a day dominated by Chevrolet and Ford.

Ryan Newman appears once again for the Penske Racing team and will line up in 12th place, ahead of Jeff Burton who starts 13th and was the second fastest of the Roush boys behind rookie Kurt Busch who narrowly missed out on a place inside the top ten with his late run, eventually dropping to 11th when Rudd's time was posted.

Jeff Green made up for the disappointment of not making the field at Dover with a solid 17th place effort for the RCR owned America Online Chevrolet and the defending Busch Grand National Champion will share the ninth row of the grid with Rusty Wallace in the No.2 Miller Lite Ford who won the August event here.

Mark Martin (20th), Dale Jarrett (21st), Bobby Labonte (25th) and Sterling Marlin (29th) all made it into the field on speed but will have a major task on their hands to get to the front of the field on Sunday as overtaking is usually something of a rarity in recent Winston Cup events here.

2000 Kmart 400 winner Tony Stewart is even worse off and needed a Provisional to get himself inside the fastest 43 after placing 46th after his Bud Pole Qualifying run. The No.20 Home Depot Pontiac will start 37th. Others who were left out of the top 43 before Provisionals were sorted included Bobby Hamilton and Jerry Nadeau who, along with Elliott Sadler, Ward Burton, Terry Labonte and Robert Pressley, will start Sunday's race from the back of the field.

Mike Wallace missed his second race of the year for the No.7 Ultra Motorsports team while Rick Mast, who started third here a year ago, missed the cut again for the Midwest Transit team. Andy Houston was unlucky not to get in as was Stacy Compton in Mark Melling's Dodge while Kenny Wallace and the beleaguered Eel River team may have the funding to complete the year thanks to Duke's Mayonnaise and Sauer's but they don't necessarily have the speed and they were 48th and last overall.

It wasn't all doom and gloom for the smaller teams or indeed for the bigger teams who have fallen on hard times as Petty Enterprises managed to get All three cars into the field for the first time in several weeks with John Andretti, Kyle Petty and Buckshot Jones all making the top 25 on what has to be seen as a good day for this once great operation.

Of those who were borderline on Provisionals should their qualifying run go badly, Hut Stricklin made it in with 23rd fastest time as did Ron Hornaday, Brett Bodine and Shawna Robinson who will become the first lady to start a Winston Cup event for more than a decade when she lines up in a well deserved 32nd spot for team boss Michael Kranefuss and the No.84 Ford team on Sunday.