LONG POND, Pa. (AP) -- Rusty Wallace has a reputation for getting the most out of his equipment -- sometimes asking more than it has to offer.
That was among his concerns Friday when he won the pole for the Pocono 500.
''I don't think I've ever turned that much RPMs in my life, and I was just hoping to make it back,'' he said. ''That thing just about broke the track, it was running so strong.''
Wallace shattered Sterling Marlin's year-old record at Pocono International Raceway with a qualifying lap of 171.625 mph. Still, Wallace didn't classify it as a perfect lap.
''I was a little too tight across the tunnel turn,'' he said, referring to the most difficult part of the 2 1/2-mile triangular track. ''I've been fighting that since I've been here.''
But Wallace didn't worry about it. His lap in 52.440 seconds was an example of a driver doing best in a difficult situation. Because the track is so flat with three distinctly different turns, few ever truly master it.
''Hey, as quick as it's running, just forget about the tunnel turn,'' Wallace said.
Although he once considered himself a mediocre qualifier, Wallace is having his best season in time trials. The pole was his series-leading fifth after 15 of 34 events this year.
The run in his Ford enabled the 43-year-old driver from St. Louis to eclipse his personal best for any full season. He had four in each of the last two years, and in 1989, when he won his only Winston Cup championship.
So he'll start first Sunday, the fourth time he will do so at Pocono.
''The car's been real fast all year long, but we have to do a better job of closing the deal,'' Wallace said. ''We need to start winning some more races.''
The pole was the second in three weeks for Wallace, who last took the top spot in qualifying for the MBNA Platinum 400 in Dover, Del.
In all, nine drivers eclipsed Marlin's year-old qualifying record of 170.506.
Qualifying second in a Pontiac was John Andretti, timed in 52.551 for a speed of 171.262.
''It's always good to start up front at Pocono,'' Andretti said. ''If you start in the middle at Pocono, it's six abreast to the first turn, and just wait to see who crashes.''
Wallace would like to convert the pole into his fourth victory on the mountaintop. That would tie him with Darrell Waltrip, Tim Richmond and Bill Elliott, who also has four Pocono poles, for the most in track history.
Winning, like qualifying, means constantly adjusting the car, Wallace explained.
''I unloaded with the setup that we thought might be close,'' he said. ''But we kept changing springs and shocks.''
Third-fastest was Ricky Rudd, whose Ford went 170.820. Next was his teammate, series champion and two-time Pocono winner Dale Jarrett, at 170.788. Three-time Pocono winner Jeff Gordon was fifth in a Chevrolet, going 170.700.
''We only did two or three timed laps in practice,'' Rudd said. ''I didn't think we had anything for Rusty, and we didn't.''
Qualifying sixth was Mark Martin, followed by Mike Skinner, Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart and Joe Nemechek.
Series points leader Bobby Labonte was 11th.
Marlin went only 168.011, failing to qualify for the field with only the 31st-fastest speed. He'll try again Saturday, when positions 26-43 are set in second-round qualifying.
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