Originally created 04/17/99

Bliss wins pole for NAPA 250 Craftsman trucks at Martinsville



MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Mike Bliss was the fastest among 15 drivers who bettered the Craftsman Truck Series qualifying record at Martinsville Speedway on Friday and won the pole for Saturday's NAPA 250.

It is the 13th career truck series pole for Bliss, whose speed of 94.275 mph easily topped Rich Bickle's record of 92.796 mph, set two years ago. It also made Bliss the fifth different pole winner in five races this season.

"I'm tickled. This helps our team out a lot," said Bliss, who will start the race 16th in the point standings with a best finish of eighth.

With a lot of talk in the garage area centering on the new pit road, which stretches from the third turn all the way around to the end of the second turn, Bliss said the surface on the .526-mile oval felt better, too.

"For some reason, this race track is very fast. We tested here Wednesday and it was fast. The track's just got a lot of grip to it for some reason."

Mike Wallace completed all all-Ford front row after turning a fast lap at 94.078 mph, and Randy MacDonald will go third after a lap at 93.985 mph.

"Way better than what we had practiced," said Wallace, who is third in the points race. "That was about three-and-a-half tenths better than what we practiced. Where it actually came from I'm really not sure."

"I can tell you the race track really got better, a lot stickier."

MacDonald said his team didn't even decide to come to Martinsville until earlier this week, and he was surprised to do as well as he did. He's only started one race this season, finishing 13th in the season-opening Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at Miami-Homestead Speedway after starting 22nd.

"After watching the first few trucks go out, I wasn't sure we had the truck to make the race and now we are third," MacDonald said.

Dennis Setzer will start outside the second row after a quaifying speed of 93.654, with Randy Tolsma fifth and defending series champion Ron Hornaday sixth. Tolsma had a fast lap at 93.604, and Hornaday was at 93.331.

Hornaday's son, Ronnie, was 38th in qualifying and missed the field as only the top 31 trucks, plus five provisional starters, earned positions.

Jay Sauter, who won the truck race here last season when it was held in the fall, was 30th fastest in qualifying at 91.571 mph, and Jimmy Hensley, second to Sauter last September, qualified ninth at 93.111 mph.

Ernie Irvan, caught practicing on improper tires with about 30 minutes left in practice, was limited to one qualifying lap, but still easily madee the field, turning that lap at 93.006 mph. He'll start 11th on Saturday.