Benny Parsons took the pole position for next week's Daytona 500 in record time yesterday, driving the high-banked Daytona International Speedway at 196.317 mph.
Parsons, in his Waddell Wilson-prepared Lemans Pontiac, was the 24th of 42 drivers to run and recorded his fastest time the first time around the 2.5-mile track.
"The car ran so smooth I was concerned that we weren't running very fast," said Parsons, 40. "It felt awfully good. I thought our time was absolutely fantastic."
Harry Gant, second 10 times in NASCAR races but never a winner, was clocked at 195.609 mph in a Buick. He will start on the outside front row in the Feb. 14 Valentine's Day race. Richard Petty, seven-time Daytona 500 winner, was third fastest in 195.469. Darrell Waltrip, 1981 Grand National champion, was fourth at 195.448.
Parsons broke the Grand National qualifying mark of 196.049 mph set by Buddy Baker in February 1979. Parsons had won the Daytona, but never the pole. Only the two front row positions were determined yesterday; two 125-mile qualifying races Thursday will set the 40-car field for the stock car classic.
In the $190,000 Busch Clash, Bobby Allison fought off a late charge by Neil Bonnett to win by a half-car length. Bonnett, who started in No. 4 position, tried to overtake his Hueytown, Ala., neighbor on the backstretch of the final lap, but Waltrip's right front fender hit the rear of Bonnett's Thunderbird. Allison, starting 12th in the 13-car field, took the lead on the fifth lap and stayed there the rest of the 20-lap, dash-for-cash part of Daytona Speed Weeks that ends with the 500.