Originally created 07/12/97

Schrader captures first pole since '95



LOUDON, N.H. - Ken Schrader, who hasn't won a Winston Cup race in six years, won his first pole in two years Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Schrader led the qualifiers for Sunday's Jiffy Lube 300 with a record 129.423 mph lap on the 1.058-mile oval.

Bobby Hamilton was second at 129.375 and Ricky Craven, who set the record last year, was third.

"This is a car we haven't run this year," Schrader said of his Chevy Monte Carlo. "They ran it here last year and said they've had some of their best finishes with it. I've been wondering why we haven't run it, but it looks like it's a good one. It was good right off the trailer."

The pole is the 19th for Schrader, but his first since Pocono on June 9, 1995, and his first for the Skoal Bandit racing team he joined this year.

Schrader, who has four Winston Cup victories, but none since 1991, could use a good start and finish after only two top 10 finishes entering the second half of the season.

"We've got finishes that haven't been real impressive, but I think if anybody has been watching TV the last four or five weeks, they've seen this Skoal team is ready to go," he said.

But the results haven't been there. Five weeks ago, he had a sixth but hasn't been better than 15th in the last four weeks.

Owner and crew chief Andy Petree thinks this week might help turn things around.

"Our expectations are to get a top five finish out of here to help solidify this team," he said. "Our hopes are to win the race obviously, but we expect to run in the top five and finish in the top five."

But Schrader and Petree should be aware that no pole winner has won any of the four previous Winston Cup races at New Hampshire.

Last year's winner, Ernie Irvan, qualified 11th Friday, while series leader, Jeff Gordon, failed to qualify on the first day for the first time this season.

The only other driver among the top 10 in the driver standings who failed to qualify was Dale Earnhardt, who just missed at No. 26. He, Gordon and the others will get another shot today on the second day of qualifying.