Waltrip Wins Pole in Record Fashion : Veteran Reaches 117.066 M.P.H. in Riverside 400 Qualifying

Times Staff Writer

For Darrell Waltrip, Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s NASCAR Budweiser 400 was a fast run followed by a long wait.

However, everything turned out fine for the veteran driver from Franklin, Tenn. Not only did he win his first pole since this race last year, he did it in record style with a 117.066 m.p.h. tour of the 2.62-mile road course.

Waltrip’s lap erased the record of 116.938 set by Terry Labonte last November. Waltrip did it midway through a marathon session that took more than 3 1/2 hours to complete.

“You might know that (Geoff) Bodine, one of the guys I was most worried about, would be the last in line, so I had to wait until dark to see if our time would hold,” a happy Waltrip said.

“However, when you haven’t won a pole all year, you will hang around to see what is going to happen.”


Waltrip’s worry about Bodine proved to be real as the Pleasant Gardens, N.C., native gave him a scare with a 116.759-m.p.h. lap that was good for runner-up honors. His speed edged Tim Richmond by .002. Neil Bonnett was fourth at 115.958. The top four drivers all drove Chevrolet Monte Carlos.

Waltrip credited cooler weather for his fast run.

“The thing that made the difference today was that it was overcast, not the usual 90- to 95-degree weather we usually have here this time of year. It’s been kinda of cool, and that what had me worried about Bodine,” Waltrip said. “It must have been 20 degrees cooler out there when he ran than it was when we were out. I’d hate to get beat by the weather, but I didn’t.

“We needed a pole and we need a win, maybe this is the week we get both.”

Although it has been awhile since he has set on the pole, it was the ninth time in his career that he has been in that spot at Riverside, most of any driver.

“I could tell on my run that I was going really fast or I was really messing up,” Waltrip said. “I was all over the place in a couple of spots, but they were places where you would if you were going really fast. I though I was really going fast, but I could have been messed up. Fortunately it was really fast.”

Though he had to settle for second best, Bodine was more than pleased with his run.

“It’s the best I’ve run here. We got a little sideways and got off in turn 6 or it might have been a little better than it was,” he said. We’ve won a race here, but I’ve always had trouble in qualifying.

Friday’s time trials set the first 20 positions for Sunday’s race. The rest of the drivers will be back this morning at 11:30 when they will determine the remainder of the 35-car starting grid.

Qualifying was also held Friday for today’s Von’s 200, a 48-lap race for All American Challenge Series cars with Doug Taylor of Goleta winning the pole position with a speed of 112.683 m.p.h. in a Pontiac Firebird. Ron Esau of Lakeside, Calif., was the runner-up in another Chevrolet Camaro. Duke Hoenshell of Orange will start fourth today in a bid to win his third straight 200.