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IMS Brickyard 400 Pole Story

31 July 1997


For Immediate Release

INDIANAPOLIS, July 31, 1997 -- Ernie Irvan toured the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway oval at an track stock-car record average speed of
177.736 miles an hour Thursday to capture the pole position for the
Brickyard 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race.

Irvan just edged Joe Nemechek by .053 of a second in the closest pole
battle in the four-year history of the race. Nemechek s speed was

Defending winner Dale Jarrett was third at 177.494, followed by
Darrell Waltrip at 176.866 and Dale Earnhardt at 176.536.

Irvan follows in the footsteps of Rick Mast (1994) and Jeff Gordon
(1995 and 1996) as pole winners for the event. It was the 18th pole of
his Winston Cup career and his first since April 26, 1996 at
Talladega, Ala.

"I m really relieved," Irvan said. "It s been a pretty tough week. We
unloaded the car and it was uncompetitive. The guys worked on the
motors and got it down the straightaways real fast. I told them I had
it going through the corners as fast as it was going to go and that
they needed to get me some speed down the straights. They did a great

In all, five drivers bettered Jeff Gordon's previous track record of
176.419 miles an hour set last year. Waltrip was the first, then
Jarrett took command before Irvan nailed down the No. 1 starting spot.

The top 25 drivers were locked into the field Thursday. Positions
26-38 will be filled by second round time trials at 1 p.m. Friday.

Mike Skinner, in sixth, was the fastest rookie qualifier at
176.415. Ron Barfield, driving a car owned by Bill Elliott, made his
first Winston Cup field by qualifying 23rd at 175.087.

Robby Gordon, who starts in 11th spot after qualifying at 176.074,
becomes the second driver to start the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard
400 in the same year and the fifth Indy 500 veteran to make a
Brickyard 400 field. John Andretti was the first to double in 1994 and
"500" vets A.J. Foyt, Danny Sullivan and Geoff Brabham also started
the inaugural Brickyard.

Jeff Gordon, the pole winner the past two years at Indy, qualified at
175.056 to start 24th -- the same spot that Jarrett started en route
to his 1996 Brickyard 400 victory.

The race begins at 12:15 p.m. (EST) Saturday and will be aired live by
ABC Sports and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.