It came as little surprise when Bill Elliott ran a record 210.364 m.p.h. lap Monday in qualifying for the Daytona 500, but a few eyebrows were raised when rookie Davey Allison won the other spot on the front row for Sunday's stock car race.
Davey, whose father, Bobby, has won the Daytona 500 twice, posted a lap of 209.084 early in the day on Daytona International Speedway's 2.5-mile trioval to become the first of 13 drivers to better Elliott's record of 205.114 set in 1985.
Allison will be the first rookie in Daytona 500 history to start in the first row.
The stunning performance by the 25-year-old Hueytown, Ala., driver also set up an all-Ford Thunderbird front row.
Elliott's speed is the second fastest lap in stock car history, bettered only by the 212.229 he ran last year at Talladega.
"This one today was more impressive," Elliott said. Speeds at the longer Talladega track are generally about five m.p.h. faster than at Daytona.
A third T-Bird, driven by former sprint car champion Ken Schrader, qualified third at 208.227. That knocked Bobby Allison, who ran 207.795 in a Buick, back to fourth and set up an intriguing front row for the second of Thursday's two 125-mile qualifying races.
Davey and Bobby Allison, 49, will start side-by-side on the front row. It will be the first time they will start alongside each other in more than the 100 times they have raced together.
Asked how he and his dad fared in their rivalry, Davey smiled and said: "It's about 98 to 2."
Davey's position in Sunday's 500, the opening race of the $15.5-million Winston Cup season, is secure, but Bobby must race for his position. Only the first two spots were determined Monday. The rest of the 42-car field will be set by how they finish in Thursday's two sprint races.
It was difficult to know what made Bobby happier--his own speed was the fastest of all the General Motors entries, or his son's.
"I'm thrilled to death (about his own speed)," the former Winston Cup champion said. "It's a compliment to all of the crew. I don't think anyone let up for a minute during the winter. They worked through Christmas and New Year's.
"And I knew Davey was going to be fast. They've worked hard and put the right stuff together and applied themselves. Don't turn your back on the Alabama Gang. They're liable to take your wallet."
Elliott, who dominated Sunday's 50-lap Busch Clash in a different Thunderbird, became the first driver to win three straight Daytona 500 pole positions in qualifying. Fireball Roberts also sat on the pole three straight times from 1961 to 1963 but in that era the pole went to the winner of the first qualifying heat.
Elliott said he felt he had squeezed all he could from the Ford engine prepared by his brother Ernie at their family garage in Dawsonville, Ga.
"We ran the Thunderbird as hard as it could go." he said. "If someone had asked me a year ago if I'd ever be able to go 210 at Daytona, I'd have just flat out said no.
"Being able to run this fast today is a combination of everything we've been working on in the last few months. The time we spent in the wind tunnel really helped, and we worked hard on the chassis. And taking the 200 pounds off really does help the tires."
The minimum weight for Winston Cup cars was dropped from 3,700 pounds to 3,500 this year.
Allison ran his 209 m.p.h. lap about an hour before Elliott rolled onto the track, but Elliott said he drove no differently knowing the speed he had to beat.
"If we had gone out first we still would have run as fast as we possible could. We knew what Davey had done, but I don't think that made us run any harder to take any risks. We just ran the same plan that we would have run if we'd qualified first, 20th or last."
Young Allison is a rookie because this is his first 500 after failing to qualify the last two years, but he is an old hand at negotiating the 31 degree banking of Daytona. He began driving here in 1981 in the ARCA 200 and has driven in at least one race a year ever since, in addition to many laps testing tires.
His best Daytona finish is a second in the 1985 ARCA 200.
"I don't consider Davey a rookie," Elliott said. "I know that he is, but as much as he's driven, he's not really one."
Davey, whose Alabama twang sounds much like his father's, did not seem as surprised as others at his performance.
"We were hoping to go quicker," he said. "We'd have liked to go 210, but we knew it was a longshot. We're just a rookie team. Guys like Bill Elliott and a lot of the other teams have experience, and they have an advantage on us.
"We just wanted to come down and be competitive. Confidence-wise, the speed we ran helps me."
Elliott's record was broken by four Fords, including his own, three Chevys, three Oldsmobiles, two Buicks and one Pontiac.
Other drivers who came in under the old record included defending Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, 207.016; Kyle Petty, 207.006; Neil Bonnett, 206.593; defending 500 winner Geoff Bodine, 206.469; Rick Wilson, 206.247; Benny Parsons, 206.148; Bobby Hillin, 206.110; Sterling Marlin, 205.700, and Buddy Baker, 205.587.
Prospects of Daytona's first all-200 m.p.h. 42-car field are good after 37 of the 47 cars bettered that barrier. There will be another qualifying session today for teams who wish to improve on their times, plus the 14 entrants who did not make an attempt Monday.