Cold. Windy. Chance of snow. Not exactly words that come to mind when Las Vegas is mentioned. While the northwestern side of the city was experiencing a light – and extremely rare – snowfall, Greg Biffle and his National Guard Ford team won the Bud Pole Award for the ninth annual UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Biffle, driving for team owner Jack Roush, set the fastest time of 49 qualifiers with a lap of 31.322 sec. at 172.403 mph. It was Biffle’s first Bud Pole Award of 2006 and the second of his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series career.

"The car was really good right off the transporter. This is the car we ran at California (two weeks ago, where he qualified second but retired early due to engine failure). I thought (Jimmie Johnson) would beat us, but he didn’t, so I dodged a bullet" Biffle said. "Always, if you get to do it a second time, you can probably find more speed. The track had a tremendous amount of grip. With this weather, the engines are running very, very well. The car was making a lot of power and was just perfect on that lap. I thought about what I needed to do and just drove the car like I knew how I wanted to drive. I hoped it would do what I wanted it to and it did."

Although Biffle was fastest, he did not break the track record, set in 2004 by Kasey Kahne (30.874 sec., 174.904 mph).
Tony Stewart will share the front row with Biffle after turning in the second-fastest lap of the day: 31.383 sec. at 172.068 mph. Greg and Tony were the only drivers to exceed 172 mph on a chilly, windy Las Vegas afternoon.

Stewart spent Thursday morning helping to build a playground at the Salvation Army center on Palomino Lane in Las Vegas.

"When you can do something like that and know that you’re building a safe playground and doing something to help these kids. It’s nice to give back to the community. This is our second year of doing this Racing to Play deal with Kaboom and Home Depot. Our crewmembers – and crewmen from J.J.’s (Yeley) team and Denny’s (Hamlin) – go and donate their whole day. And the other people that were there were Home Depot and Salvation Army employees who donate their day off. To be able to do that and give back to the community – that’s a pretty good feeling. That’s the perfect way to start your weekend. When you have a bad day, and you think about doing something like that, your bad day doesn’t seem that bad.

"I really didn’t pay attention to what other guys had run in practice. We pretty much worked on race runs. We were way off pace in practice. We gained almost half a second and I was pretty excited about the lap we ran. Any time you can do that, that’s a real positive. It’s just one of those things that goes from what we did yesterday. This is building for Sunday also. Hopefully our race package will be as good as our qualifying package."

Jimmie Johnson, winner of last year’s UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, qualified third in his Lowe’s Chevrolet.
"The air temperature was pretty consistent, for the most part," said Johnson. "We didn’t have a big disadvantage for the guys who (qualified early) – it was relatively consistent. The thing that was inconsistent was the wind. Most times, when you have a consistent breeze, you can adjust inside the car and take it easy where you have a tailwind. But today the wind was really swirling from everything we saw. It was tough at times in the car because you would enter (the turn) with a lot of speed and then the wind would change – or you’d get hit with a side draft – and that would move the car around. I’m really happy with the effort. Our team did a good job adjusting to the wind and the track."

Kyle Busch of Las Vegas qualified fourth aboard his Kellogg’s/Ice Age II Chevrolet.
"You have those days when it’s so hot in the car you want to get out," said Kyle. "Today, it’s so cold you want to get in."

Kasey Kahne, who won the Las Vegas Bud Pole Award in 2004, qualified fifth and had the fastest Dodge on the track.
Kurt Busch, NASCAR’s 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion and Las Vegas native, qualified sixth in his Miller Lite Dodge.

J.J. Yeley was the highest-qualifying Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year title contender and will start 12th in the Joe Gibbs-owned Interstate Batteries Chevrolet – the same car he raced at California Speedway two weeks ago.

"It’s a lot of fun driving this car," said J.J. "This was a brand-new body when this car went to California. This car has some pretty good history with (former Gibbs-Interstate Batteries driver) Bobby Labonte from last year. They ran second with it at Charlotte. The race track was cool all day long. I think it (track temperature) started at 78 degrees and was down to 50-something when I went out."

It was a busy day at the speedway as the multi-story condominium project, Trophy Towers, was announced at 11 a.m. and the new Richard Petty Terrace grandstand officially was opened at 2:45 p.m. The Trophy Towers announcement was made by speedway officials and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman.

"I have said many times that I want to make this the greatest speedway in the world," said Bruton Smith, chairman of LVMS’s parent company, Speedway Motorsports. "We announced a few weeks ago that we were making major improvements to our infield area and to the racing surface itself. And this is another step in separating this speedway from all others."

Smith has overseen condominium projects at three other SMI speedways: Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Each project has been met with rave reviews.

"When Bruton announced that he was building condominiums in Charlotte, there were a lot of naysayers," said Chris Powell, general manager of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "But the man has been a visionary in this sport. There is no doubt that once Trophy Towers is completed, it will be the talk of the Las Vegas Valley as well as the racing world."

In addition to the private units, Trophy Towers will feature a swimming pool, spa, workout room, private parking and high-tech security. The individual units will range in size from approximately 1,750 square feet to 3,500 square feet for the penthouse. Each condo will have views of both the Strip and the speedway.

The 17,000-seat Richard Petty Terrace, named for the seven-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion, joins the Dale Earnhardt Terrace, which was dedicated in 2004.