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Ward Burton on Pole for NASCAR Winston Cup Series Hanes 500

27 September 1997

MARTINSVILLE, VA. -- Ward Burton, who comes from South Boston, Va. a small town about 30 miles east of here, couldn't have felt great about qualifying on this 0.533 mile track today. Why should he? 1996 found him loading up early and going home before the green flag flew for both races run here last year.

The spring '97 race was a bit better with an 18th place qualifying effort.

When he rolled onto the track today he must have thought, 'heck - let me just get in the show'. But after he made his two lap qualifying run and looked up his #22 was displayed in the top-spot on the scoring pylon.

Burton could only watch as car after car went out to try to knock him off the lofty spot. But when all the cars were done taking times it was Ward Burton's 20.272 second (93.410 mph) lap that was good enough to get him Busch Pole.

"Confidence and team work got us this pole," barked Burton. "Working together and not pointing fingers when things aren't going right. We've all really buckled down the last few weeks. We kind of put everything behind us. When the car isn't right I don't get upset with them and they don't get upset with me. We just keep working till we get it right. We sure have learned a lot the last few weeks together."

Ward joins the 16 other drivers that have won a Busch Pole this year and will run in the Bud Shootout that kicks off the 1998 NASCAR racing season.

The driver sitting next to Ward Burton is last week's pole sitter Mark Martin. "We came here to get a frontstretch pit," said Martin. "I'm a real unlucky guy, and the last time here I said I'd run through the stands naked if I won the race. I had to think about it because it was looking pretty good there for a while. I don't know what I'm going to have to say this time but I sure wont say what I said the last time."

Kenny Irwin, the driver that'll replace Ernie Irvan in the #28 ride next year, in his second ever Winston Cup attempt drove a lap good enough for the third starting spot. "I really kind of slipped on my second lap," said Irwin. "I just wanted to get in the show solid. It's so hard. In the race you've got 500 laps but in qualifying you've only got two."

The drivers that round out the top-five are Hut Stricklin in the Circuit City Ford and Ricky Rudd in the Tide Ride.

Jeff Gordon, the series points leader and driver that is shooting for a three-peat here at Martinsville qualified 11th. Gordon commented, "It's just hard to get that thing hooked up for two laps. The car felt good, but I just wished I could have qualified a little better to give the guys a better choice for a pit stall."

Positions one to 25 are locked in for the Hanes 500 with the balance of the 42 car field being determined after tomorrow's second round qualifying which is scheduled for 11:00 AM.

Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel