Early testing paid off for Geoff Bodine and the Hendrick Motorsports team Friday as Bodine put his Chevrolet on the pole for Sunday’s Checker 500 NASCAR race with a lap of 123.203 m.p.h. over the mile track at Phoenix International Raceway.
“We came here last week and tested and that’s why we did so well,” Bodine said after narrowly edging Rusty Wallace for the No. 1 qualifying position. Wallace, who is chasing Bill Elliott for the Winston Cup championship with 2 races remaining, did 122.871 m.p.h. in his Pontiac.
“Running a new track (for the NASCAR stocks) for the first time, it really helped to have the track all to ourselves for testing,” Bodine said.
This is the first Winston Cup race on the track here, which replaced the defunct Riverside International Raceway on the NASCAR schedule.
Elliott, who has a 79-point lead over Wallace, qualified sixth at 122.470 m.p.h. as the first 20 positions were determined for Sunday’s 500-kilometer (312-mile) race. Only .447 of a second, or 1.856 m.p.h., separated the 20 cars.
Winston Cup regular Mike Alexander, who took over Bobby Allison’s ride when Allison was seriously injured at Pocono last June, won the pole for today’s AC-Delco 300 Southwest Tour race with a lap at 126.240 m.p.h. in his Buick.
Also challenging the West Coast drivers in the season-ending Southwest Tour race will be reigning Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Davey Allison and Ken Schrader.
Southwest Tour cars are faster because they are 500 pounds lighter, with the same horsepower.