It turns out he was right to be concerned.
Kahne was sitting comfortably at the head of the field for most of the qualifying session until his Evernham Motorsports teammate came out late in the going and blew his fast lap right off the board. Riggs took the pole with a lap of 191.469 mph to beat Kahne’s outside-pole speed of 190.194 mph. “We knew we had a good car, and we got a good draw going out late,” said Riggs. “I knew the cooler it was, the better it was going to be.”
Riggs also won the Bud Pole in May for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in the same car. He still considers that race the one that got away, as the team ran at the front and had a winning car all night until they ran out of fuel on pit road and finished 13th. According to Riggs, the team brought the car back in the exact same configuration they used in the spring. “We found the exact parts and suspension pieces that we had on it in the spring and put them all back on exactly as they were,” said crew chief Rodney Childers.
The Evernham duo was followed by Casey Mears, who posted a lap at 189.613 mph in his No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge. Mears also ran late in the session. Elliott Sadler in the third Evernham entry was fourth and was followed by Kevin Harvick in the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, the only non-Dodge driver to finish in the top five.
Kurt Busch had posted the third-fastest lap at 189.713 mph, but his qualifying time was disallowed when the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge did not pass post-qualifying inspection because the right-rear shock was not found to conform to NASCAR rules. Busch will have to start at the rear of the field on Saturday night; according to NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter, further penalties may follow later this week.
The new Team Red Bull also did not have the qualifying result they were hoping for. The team intended to make their debut this week with veteran driver Bill Elliott, but missed the show after posting only the 40th-quickest time. Because the new team does not have any owner points, they were required to make the field on speed.