Ken Schrader, who has won six races at Phoenix International Raceway in open-wheel cars, took the pole for a stock car race when he lapped the mile track in a Chevrolet Lumina at 124.645 m.p.h. Friday during qualifying for Sunday's Autoworks 500.
Fifteen drivers bettered Geoff Bodine's year-old record of 123.203 m.p.h. on an ideal racing day.
Schrader's record run makes him eligible for the $197,600 bonus that will be awarded to the next driver who wins a Winston Cup race from the pole. The purse has been accumulating, at $7,600 a race, since it was last won 26 races ago.
If Schrader does not win Sunday, the prize will increase to $400,000 for the final race, Nov. 19 at Atlanta.
"I asked Rick (car owner Rick Hendrick) if he wanted us to go after that $197,600 or just wait and go for the big one at Atlanta," Schrader said. "But he said to just go ahead and go for it here, that it would be good interest money."
Schrader, one of the most versatile drivers in racing, has won four midget races on the Phoenix mile track--in 1979, '81, '82 and '84--and two in championship dirt-track cars--in 1987 and last February.
"Three of the four midget races were won in different makes of cars, and that's what makes the deal neat," Schrader said. "I don't know that it makes much difference if you're driving an open-wheel car or a stock car. What's important is getting laps on the track, and I've been driving out here since 1979.
"The idea's the same, no matter what you're driving, and that's to get around the race track as fast as you can."
Schrader will chalk up some more laps when he runs today in the AC-Delco 500, a Southwest Tour race. He qualified a Chevrolet at 124.783 m.p.h., faster than his Winston Cup car but good for only 13th position. Southwest Tour cars are about 800 pounds lighter than the Winston Cup cars.
Mark Martin qualified sixth for Sunday's race, but he clinched the $30,000 bonus for winning the most poles during the season when Alan Kulwicki, last year's Autoworks 500 winner, did not post the quickest lap. Martin has won six poles this year.
Terry Labonte will start alongside Schrader in the 500-kilometer (312-mile) race. He qualified Junior Johnson's Ford at 124.559 m.p.h.
Only the top 20 qualified Friday, with the remainder of the entries having another chance today to make the 42-car field.
Competition was so tight that six positions were determined by less than 1/100th of a second.
"These (mechanics) work on these cars all year and they keep getting faster everywhere we go," Schrader said of the record-breaking spree. "The only thing that can slow them down is deterioration of the track, and that doesn't seem to happen out here."
The championship contenders qualified in inverse order of the point standings. Rusty Wallace, who has a 109-point lead over defending series champion Dale Earnhardt, qualified ninth. Earnhardt was seventh, and Martin, who is only 19 points behind him, was sixth.
Mike Chase of Bakersfield won the pole for today's AC-Delco 300 with a lap at 127.995 m.p.h. in his Buick. It was also a track record, bettering the mark of 126.240 m.p.h. set by Mike Alexander last year. Jim Thirkettle of Sylmar, last year's winner, who is retiring after today's race, will start second in a Chevy after a lap at 126.778 m.p.h.
Dan Press of Frazier Park, who qualified 18th in the 41-car field, needs only to start the race to clinch the series championship. Press' Chevrolet has won eight races this year.
Darrell Waltrip, Butch Miller and Dick Trickle, all qualifiers for the Winston Cup race Sunday, will also be in today's race.