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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Yeley notches first pole at MIS

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
J.J. Yeley gets his first kiss, well, his first kiss for being the top qualifier in a Nextel Cup race. He went 187.505 at MIS. J.J. Yeley gets his first kiss, well, his first kiss for being the top qualifier in a Nextel Cup race. He went 187.505 at MIS.
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BROOKLYN, Mich. - J.J. Yeley had sufficient time to rehearse the line, and when the appropriate time finally presented itself the words were as smooth as his qualifying run.

"It's very fitting for a green car to lead us to the green flag, and hopefully it will be the checkered flag, too," Yeley said.

Driving the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet, Yeley won his first ever pole yesterday with a qualifying speed of 187.505 mph at Michigan International Speedway.

Yeley will share the first row for tomorrow's Citizens Bank 400 with Jimmie Johnson, who was one-thousandth of a second slower.

"It was kind of funny because after the lap was over I couldn't find out from my crew guys what I ran," Yeley said. "I kept asking and asking and no one told me what as going on. But the car felt really good, it was just a little on the free side."

Kyle Busch, the subject of racing headlines all week long, qualified third at 186.829. Hendrick Motorsports said Wednesday that it will hire Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the 2008 season, and Busch subsequently announced he would leave the group. Earnhardt will begin tomorrow's race on row 12 after qualifying 23rd.

"It's been a lot but you just try to go about things as best as you can," the 22-year-old Busch said. "You've got a lot to think about. You've got to put it all in perspective and look at the items that you need to concentrate on most and put those at the top of your list."

NOT-SO-SPEEDY DELIVERY: Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS car, had qualified for 40 consecutive cup races over 20 years at MIS before missing the cut for tomorrow's field.

Jarrett, a four-time champion here, most recently in 2002, has struggled mightily this year. His best start, when he qualified 22nd at Dover two weeks ago, preceded two straight races in which he failed to qualify.

Jarrett's best finish this year came during the first week when he finished 22nd at Daytona.

STILL IN THE SADDLE: Elliot Sadler will make his 300th career start in tomorrow's Nextel Cup race after qualifying 39th yesterday with a speed of 183.253.

The driver of the Dodge No. 19 car has witnessed the sport evolve with an increased level of marketability since his 1999 debut.

"We had a lot of big news happen in our sport this week and I saw it pretty much on every news channel you could possibly find it on - not just Speed Channel or ESPN. It's been played on everything," Sadler said. "I just see where we're reaching a lot more people, and I think NASCAR and all of its sponsors and all of its marketing people have done a good job of bringing new faces and news fans to our sport."

Tomorrow will also be special for Carl Edwards, who will start his 100th race at the same location of his Aug. 22, 2004 debut.

Michael Waltrip, mired in a season-long slump, qualified for just his third race of 2007, posting a speed of 185.543, 18th fastest in the 43-car field.

"We are taking baby steps and this is a good step in the right direction," said Waltrip, who finished fourth here in 2002.

COOK'S CHOICE: Sylvania native Terry Cook could fill a scrapbook based on his memories at Michigan International Speedway.

Cook and his wife, Amy East, a former ESPN pit reporter, went on their first date here and Cook proposed here a few years later.

Today, Cook will celebrate another milestone, becoming just the third Craftsman Truck driver to make 250 career starts, joining Jack Sprague and Rick Crawford.

Today's Michigan 200 will also extend Cook's series record of consecutive starts to 232.

Cook struggled in yesterday's practice session, submitting an average speed of 170.471, just the 30th fastest in the field.

Qualifying starts at 11:05 a.m. today. The race begins at 3 p.m.

Contact Ryan Autullo at

rautullo@theblade.com.



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