Matt Kenseth Takes Winston Pole

Saturday, May 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ With a little help from his pit crew, Matt Kenseth finally won a Winston Cup pole.

But it won't count because it's not for a points event.

Kenseth's Roush Racing crew had the fastest pit stop Friday night to help him earn the top spot for The Winston, NASCAR's all-star event.

He used a four-tire pit stop in 13.23 seconds and an overall qualifying time of 112.938 to beat Michael Waltrip for the top spot in Saturday night's event at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

``This is kind of like their win,'' Kenseth said of his pit crew. ``They went over the wall, they did it, they got the fastest pit stop of the night. That's what those guys do.

``It's like a driver winning a race, that's probably how they feel if they win a contest, or do what they did tonight. They're a big part of it. A lot of those guys don't get a lot of credit, so this is good for them.''

Cars started their qualifying effort with a four-tire pit stop before running three laps around the track. The combined time it takes to do it all counts as the qualifying effort.

Waltrip, the 1996 winner of The Winston, was pleased with his starting position but said Kenseth's pit crew was just too good. The Roush crew also won the annual pit crew competition last season.

``I was pleased with what I accomplished, I just came up short,'' Waltrip said. ``I had faster lap times than Matt did, but he left pit road well and took advantage of a good pit stop.''

Kevin Harvick qualified third and was followed by Kenseth's Roush Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Mark Martin.

Rusty Wallace would have started third, but was penalized three seconds for a loose lug nut on his Ford. He'll now start 19th.

Defending race champion Jeff Gordon, a three-time winner of the dash-for-cash, qualified seventh.

Jeremy Mayfield earned the pole for the Winston Open, the qualifying race held for drivers ineligible for The Winston. The winner of the 30-lap Open advances to the main race, with the rest of that field moving on to a 16-race sprint that determines the final driver in all-star event.

That puts 27 drivers in The Winston, which will have a radically different format this year and is being called ``Survival of the Fastest.''

In a twist, drivers will be eliminated from the grid following both the first and second segments, leaving just the 10 fastest drivers to compete for the title in the final 20-lap dash.

The first segment will be 40 laps with a required four-tire pit stop and the field will be trimmed to the top-20 finishers.

The second segment is 30 laps, with only the top 10 advancing to the final shootout.

The final field will be inverted in the last segment anywhere from four cars to all 10 based on a fan vote.