Kenny Irwin, who didn't live up to expectations in one of the top Winston Cup cars, shockingly won the pole in record-setting fashion in qualifying Friday for the Southern 500.
Irwin, fired last month from the Robert Yates Racing Ford but allowed to finish the season, got his second pole of the year and third of his career with a run of 170.970 mph.
"I got through turns 1 and 2 really good," Irwin said. "In 3 and 4, we usually struggle, but I got through there good today."
That could not be said for his teammate, series points leader Dale Jarrett, who cut down a tire on his run, spun in the fourth turn and nearly hit the wall. A week after winding up 38th in Bristol, Tenn. -- only his second poor finish in 23 races this season -- Jarrett posted the slowest qualifying time for Sunday's tradition-filled race.
"The left rear tire went flat on us," said Jarrett, who held the event record with a 1996 run at 170.934. "I felt it going down the backstretch, but I was hoping it would hold up going through that last corner."
It didn't, and he wound up 45th on the list. Like those with speeds below 25th on the list, Jarrett will have to get in the field today in second-round qualifying.
Irwin, the 1998 Rookie of the Year who is without a ride for next season, said his status had nothing to do with being more intense for his 28.763-second run around the 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway.
"Ask any driver, and they'll tell you they race as hard as they can every time they get on the track," he said. "You could say it was motivation to get a new job or motivation to get better, but to me it's just doing what I've been trying to do for a year and a half."
Irwin wasn't the only lame duck to do well. Third in a Pontiac was Jerry Nadeau, fired from his ride earlier this season and filling in for injured Ernie Irvan, who announced his retirement earlier in the day.
"I think I made the right decision to retire," said Irvan, still recovering from the second head injury of his career.
It certainly worked out well for Nadeau, who next season moves to Hendrick Motorsports as a teammate to four-time Southern 500 champion Jeff Gordon.
"When this opportunity came up, I was just glad to fill in until Ernie got back," Nadeau said. "Now, maybe I'll be in this Pontiac the rest of the season."
On the outside of the front row Sunday will be Ward Burton, whose run of 173.797 in qualifying for the 1996 TranSouth 400 is the track standard. On Friday, his Pontiac got around at 170.845.
Earlier, Burton won the pole for today's Busch Series Dura Lube 200 (1 p.m., ESPN 2). He is trying to end a four-year drought of 116 starts since his only career victory.
Franchitti wins pole spot
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Dario Franchitti has temporary road courses down pat.
Franchitti, who won last year's Vancouver Molson Indy from the pole and has won the last two CART FedEx Series events on temporary circuits, took the provisional pole.
Team Kool Green teammate Paul Tracy, who finished second to Franchitti earlier this year on the temporary circuits in Toronto and Detroit, had the second fastest speed on Friday. But his lap was disqualified after his Reynard-Honda failed a technical inspection because it was lower than the allowable 2-inch clearance.
Franchitti, a 26-year-old Scotsman, turned a fast lap of 104.520 mph on the reconfigured 1.781-mile, 12-turn course at the edge of downtown Vancouver.
Tracy was closest at 104.102 before his speed was disallowed. Fortunately for the Canadian driver, he is eligible to try again Saturday in the final round of time trials for Sunday's race.
Franchitti, who trails series leader Juan Montoya by four points in the standings, got the job done Friday in only eight laps.
Roberto Moreno, continuing to sub for injured Christian Fittipaldi, qualified third at 103.997, followed by local favorite Greg Moore, from suburban Maple Ridge, at 103.889, Gil de Ferran at 103.867 and rookie Montoya at 103.801.
Bicknell bags championship
RANSOMVILLE -- While Pete Bicknell finished off his seventh track championship at Ransomville Speedway Friday night, Ricky Richner earned his first-ever win by taking the season-ending, 40-lap Modified feature.
Other winners were Dave Just in Sportsman, B.J. Bowman in Pro Stock, and Jeff Schulze and Jim Zimmerman in the Street Stocks.