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Irvan captures pole at the DieHard 500

There was more than a touch of nostalgia Friday when Ernie Irvan took the pole for the DieHard 500 in a car bearing the number and colors of the late Davey Allison.

Allison, a local favorite from nearby Hueytown, Ala., died in July 1993 in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway. Irvan was the driver tapped by team owner Robert Yates to take the place of the budding superstar.Now it's Irvin who will be gone at the end of the season, moving to another team after Yates decided not to renew his contract. He will be replaced in 1998 by rookie Kenny Irwin Jr.

In the meantime, Irvan, who survived near fatal injuries from a race car crash in August 1994, just continues to do his job, turning a lap of 193.271 mph on Friday.

That pushed John Andretti, the pole-winner in May's Winston 500 at Talladega, to the outside of the front row. Andretti was briefly on the top with a 193.166.

Asked how he feels about finishing out the string with Yates' team, Irvan said, "I want to win these next four races. There's no doubt it pays more to win, and all the guys on this team want to do that.

"The car is a tribute to Davey Allison," he added. "We remember him well and I really think everybody in the grandstands really loves to see this."

Yates, who still gets emotional when he talks about Allison, said he had to be talked into using the color scheme, blending white, red, black and gold, that Allison used when he won this race for his team in 1987.

"I had a tough time racing after all that happened with the 28 car," the owner said. "But, as I talked to the fans at the shop and at the tracks, they actually talked me into it."

Las Vegas 500

At Las Vegas, if there's anything such as a home track advantage in auto racing, Davey Hamilton figures to have it Saturday night in the Las Vegas 500k.

And it couldn't come at a better time as he tries to overcome Tony Stewart and win the Indy Racing League season championship.

"It's my home track and I'm looking for big things," Hamilton said. "I know the track as well as anyone out there."

Hamilton showed that in Thursday night's qualifying when he held the pole at 205.300 mph before teammate Billy Boat bumped him to the outside of the front row with a run of 207.413.

Land speed racing

At Gerlach, Nev., first it was the weather. Then it was problems with an engine on a medical emergency plane that kept the British Thrust SSC Team from pursuing its land-speed quest on Friday.

Rain and gusty wind nixed attempts to run on the Black Rock Desert for the third day in a row.

Calm returned to the playa by early afternoon, and the Thrust team considered a run in its attempt to break the speed of sound. But the team, led by Richard Noble, scrubbed the mission when problems were discovered with an engine of a medical emergency plane at the site.

Both Thrust and the Spirit of America team led by Craig Breed-love planned to run on Saturday, weather permitting.

Japanese Grand Prix

At Suzuka, Japan, Michael Schumacher wasn't worried about clocking the 10th-fastest lap in official practice Friday for the Japanese Grand Prix.

He said it's part of his plan to keep alive his hope for a third drivers' championship. Schumacher and his team of mechanics concentrated on setup work on used tires instead of going aggressively for time.