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Little Grabs Pole For Winston Open

Chad Little of Spokane gave his first-year team a boost Friday night by winning the pole for The Winston Open.

Little guided his Pontiac Grand Prix to a fast lap of 181.220 mph to edge Lake Speed’s 180.868 for the top starting spot in tonight’s 50-lap race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The winner advances to The Winston, the annual all-star event for stock car racing’s premier circuit. The main event, which has a total purse of nearly $1.2 million, will be held an hour after the Open.

“We’re a new team and we’ve been struggling,” said Little, who has no top-20 starts and no finishes of better than eighth for the new Winston Cup team of Mark Rypien and Greg Pollex. “There’s still a lot of consistency to work on, but this does point us in the right direction, and that’s good.”

Little was the 29th of 31 drivers to make a one-lap qualifying run on Charlotte’s 1.5-mile, high-banked tri-oval.

“The car was a little bit loose going into turn three,” he said, “but luckily it wasn’t enough where I had to get out of the gas.”

The last man on the track, Bill Elliott, destroyed the event qualifying record and won the pole for tonight’s running of The Winston.

Elliott posted a speed of 143.273 mph in the unique qualifying format that features three laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway and a mandatory pit stop for a two-tire change. Elliott’s run was good enough to beat the 141.887 of Dale Earnhardt for the top starting spot in the 70-lap race.

Mark Martin overtook Jimmy Vasser with nine laps remaining and held on to win the second round of the 1997 True Value Pontiac International Race of Champions series Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The defending IROC champion, Martin overtook Al Unser Jr. for the series points lead.