A less-than-spectacular qualifying run by injured Winston Cup points leader Terry Labonte overshadowed brother Bobby Labonte's record-breaking effort in winning the pole Saturday for today's Dura-Lube 500.
Terry Labonte, who broke a bone in his left hand in a crash during practice Friday, practiced and qualified Saturday on the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval. He insisted he will run the entire 500-kilometer (312-mile) race today (2 p.m., TNN; Radio 1330, 1520).
The elder Labonte, who leads Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 32 points and third-place Dale Jarrett by 76, qualified 30th in the 44-car field at 128.793 mph. His worst previous start this season was 29th at Talladega in July, when he went on to finish 24th.
"We ran quicker than that in practice and thought we were in good shape," said Terry Labonte, who is wearing a plastic cast with a silicone pad in the palm to protect the fracture above the knuckle on the index finger of the left hand. "It takes me a couple of laps to get going, and that wasn't a good lap.
"Right now, I can't feel anything, so the hand doesn't hurt," added the 1984 Winston Cup champion, who also is being treated with a Sport TX stimulator, which uses electrodes to block pain. "It feels clumsy right now, but we're testing it today to see how long it'll last and how long I can go Sunday. It's a short race. I'm going all the way.
"I don't use my left hand that much, but you've got to keep it on the wheel. My hand is swollen so bad I can't get it around the steering wheel. So we had to make the wheel smaller and that seemed to help a little."
With only this race and the season-finale on Nov. 10 at Atlanta remaining, Labonte said, "This is the worst time of the year it could have happened for us running for the championship. . . . It's disappointing . . . If I get through here, I'll be OK for Atlanta."
Bobby Labonte appeared more concerned about his brother than about winning the pole.
"Probably going for a fast lap was harder for him than driving in the race will be because he'll be going slower," Bobby said. "I can tell better than anybody else how he's feeling and I know it hurts. But I don't think it's that bad."
Bobby, one of the last drivers to make a qualifying attempt, earned his third pole of the season and the sixth of his career, turning a lap of 131.076. That broke the year-old track record of 130.020 by Bill Elliott.
Mike Skinner, a regular in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, who will join Dale Earnhardt as a Winston Cup teammate next season, was a surprising second in his sixth stock car start of the season at 130.695, making it an all-Chevrolet front row.
Ricky Rudd, the defending race winner and coming off his first victory of the season last Sunday at Rockingham, N.C., was third in a Ford at 130.496. He was followed by Ken Schrader, the third Hendrick driver, at 130.354 in a Chevy.
Ford drivers Jarrett and Mark Martin also surpassed Elliott's record, with 130.110 and 130.058, respectively.