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Yeley earns Michigan pole
Driver J.J. Yeley signs autographs after qualifying for Sunday's auto race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Friday, June 15, 2007. Yeley grabbed his first career pole on Friday. (AP Photo/Bob Brodbeck)

BROOKLYN, Mich. - J.J. Yeley won his first career pole Friday at Michigan International Speedway, making him like the two-mile oval even more.

"This is one of my favorite race tracks,'' he said. "It's a lot of fun because it's four and five grooves wide. It's big, fast and a lot of fun.

"It give me a lot of comfort when I'm driving and when you have that comfort, you drive harder.''

Yeley posted a lap of 38.399 seconds - at a speed of 187.505 mph - to edge Jimmie Johnson by a thousandth of a second.

"I don't win many poles, so I hate to see opportunities fly by,'' said Johnson, the defending Nextel Cup champion whose last pole was more than a year ago. "Qualifying is not my specialty, so I have to really commend my team.

"I'm better at racing than running by myself.''

Kyle Busch was third at 186.829, showing he was not too distracted after Hendrick Motorsports chose to replace him earlier in the week with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on next year's team.

"You have to put it all in perspective and look at the items you can control,'' Busch said.

Earnhardt will start Sunday's race 23rd in the 43-car field.

Ryan Newman, Joe Nemechek and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top six qualifiers.

Michael Waltrip will race for just the third time in 15 races.

"We are taking baby steps and this is a good step in the right direction,'' he said.

Waltrip, a Toyota owner and driver, will be joined by only one of his two drivers because Dale Jarrett didn't qualify and rookie David Reutimann did.

Chevrolet appears to have a shot at winning a race at MIS, which hosts two NASCAR events each summer, for the first time since Gordon did in 2001.

Chevys have made it to the winner circle in 13 of the first 14 races this year and the manufacture will have eight of the top 10 starting spots Sunday.

Yeley hopes to help the this season's trend continue, racing for his first victory three races after finishing a career-best second.

"I try not to get into running good or running bad, but there is confidence that the team has,'' he said. "As long as I don't make mistakes and the guys do their job, it makes things so much easier to have track position up front because the car handles so much better. That's why we put a lot more emphasis on qualifying.''


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