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Hamilton stays hot, wins pole

Bobby Hamilton, coming off a victory at Rockingham, won the pole for the Dura Lube 500 with a record-setting lap on the 1-mile oval Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, .

Hamilton, the defending champ, put his Petty Enterprises STP Pontiac on top with a lap of 131.579 mph, breaking the record of 131.076 set last year by Bobby Labonte.

It's Hamilton's second pole of the season and fourth of his career.

Jimmy Spencer, earning his best start of the season, put his Ford on the outside of the front row at 130.933, followed by the Thunderbird of Rusty Wallace at 130.596 and Labonte's Pontiac at 130.279.

The trio involved in the Winston Cup championship race remained close in qualifying. Points leader Jeff Gordon was 12th at 129.898, runner-up Mark Martin 14th at 129.706 and third-place Dale Jarrett ninth at 130.020.

Among the other drivers who locked up starting places in Sunday's race by qualifying in the top 25 in the opening round of time trials was three-time Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip.

Waltrip, who has had to use the former champion's provisional to make races four times this season, including last week at Rockingham, was 19th at 129.548.

"I haven't run a bad lap all day," the delighted Waltrip said. "I think this car's going to race good. I love it when it's hot out."

Hamilton, leaving Petty's team to take Sterling Marlin's place next season at Morgan-McClure Racing, said he isn't surprised by his team's strong showing as the season winds to a close.

"We weeded through a lot of stuff at the middle of the year and changed a lot of stuff we didn't like," Hamilton said. "We've been in contention to win at least six races this year. We've cut tires and had other things go wrong, but we've had a good year. It just doesn't show on paper.

PETTY'S MILESTONE: Kyle Petty, the only third-generation driver in the Winston Cup series, will make his 500th career start in Sunday's Dura Lube 500.

His father, Richard, is the only driver to reach that mark at an earlier age, having done it Aug.

23, 1970, at Talladega Superspeedway at 33 years, 1 month, 21 days.

Kyle, who is 37 years, 5 months, ran his first Winston Cup race at Talladega in August 1979.

DAVIS PROMOTED: Dan Davis, a longtime Ford executive, was named director of Ford Special Vehicle Operations and head of the company's racing efforts.

Davis replaces Bruce Cambern, who has headed up SVO since October 1996. The change is effective immediately and Ford said Cambern's next assignment will be announced shortly.