Until Bobby Labonte pulled his Interstate Batteries Chevrolet onto the track to make his qualifying run, rain was the big story of the day.  Persistent showers caused the 3 p.m. NASCAR Winston Cup Series qualifying session to begin at 7 p.m.  Rain played also havoc with the NASCAR Busch Series, washing out the qualifying session for the Sam's Town 300.  Many drivers were scheduled to make appearances at local hotels and casinos and were forced to postpone or cancel engagements.

            Bobby Labonte made his two-lap run in the late stages of qualifying for Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 but it was worth the wait.  The 2000 Winston Cup Series champion grabbed the Bud Pole Award and set a new track record of 31.211 sec. / 173.016 mph.  It was the first time a Winston Cup entry qualified over 173 mph at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

            Labonte perpetuated a tradition by breaking the track record during qualifying, and joined Dale Jarrett as the only multiple Bud Pole Award winner at LVMS since the track joined the Winston Cup Series in 1998.

            "It was pretty fast, evidently" joked Labonte, who was fifth-quickest during the lone Winston Cup practice session.  "The Interstate Batteries Chevrolet was good from the first lap on.  We tweaked on it.  I think our tests in January here helped out to where we were just able to tweak on it today and we did that about two or three times.  We made a couple of adjustments before qualifying and the car was really good.  It had good grip.  It took the first lap (of two) to get going because the tires, to me, were cold.  It was a good, fast lap.  I knew it was a good lap, I just didn't know how fast you could go because I used up a lot of race track.

            "I think we do better with less practice.  I don't consider myself a very good driver at this track because I can never really seem to be as smooth as I need to be.  I know that probably helped out a lot for today.

            "Ricky Rudd and I had a Coca-Cola appearance at the Stardust (Hotel & Casino) tonight and we're not going to be able to make it.  But I'm glad that we got qualifying in, because we were going to have to start I think17th or 18th if we hadn't.  In practice, I felt like we had a good enough race car to start better than that.  I'm glad that the rain didn't come back.  It hurt us in some ways, but it helped us in others."

            Bobby was asked if having Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart also qualify in the top 10 would allow the pair to hook up early in the race.

            "I hope so.  We both tested out here in January and he was better than I was in race trim.  I had to really count on him a lot.  His was better than mine the past two or three years here.  I'll have a little bit of a head start on him Sunday and maybe I can stay ahead of him for a few laps anyway.  The new Chevrolet is a great little race car."

Jeff Gordon held the pole position through most of the qualifying session but had to settle for second place after Labonte broke the track record.

            "I think it was a great effort by us," said Gordon.  "It was a heck of a lap.  We tested well out here (in January).  It seems like it¿s been a little while since we qualified up front.  Obviously, we learned a lot when we tested here.  It's good to get that new Monte Carlo up front.  Good to have one on the pole.  We can't be disappointed with how well we ran today."

            Gordon was asked if he thought anyone would run in excess of 173 mph, considering the cool weather and having to qualify in the evening.

            "Well, I think because of the conditions is why we ran so fast," Gordon explained.  "When it's this cool and dark, you're going to have some really fast speeds.  I actually thought we'd go even faster than we did."

            Ryan Newman qualified third in the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge.

            "We didn't know exactly what we had, but we're happy to qualify third.  I think we'll have a good race car," Newman said.  "I think everything will translate over just like last year -- we led the most laps and I had a good race car then.

            "It's a long day.  I got here yesterday and I'm still trying to work off Eastern Standard Time and it makes the days a little bit longer."

            Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Budweiser Chevrolet and Las Vegas' Kurt Busch completed the top five.

            Forty-five cars were scheduled to compete for 43 starting berths, but Brandon Ash withdrew his entry, leaving only one car to make the early trip home.  Surprisingly, that car belonged to 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion Greg Biffle, who was edged out of the final qualifying position by Derrike Cope.  Japan's Hideo Fukuyama, hoping to make his first Winston Cup Series start, claimed the 42nd starting position aboard Travis Carter's Kikkoman-sponsored Ford.

UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 qualifying: 1. Bobby Labonte, 2. Jeff Gordon, 3. Ryan Newman, 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 5. Kurt Busch, 6. John Andretti, 7. Jeff Burton, 8. Tony Stewart, 9. Michael Waltrip, 10. Jimmie Johnson, 11. Jerry Nadeau, 12. Jamie McMurray, 13. Jeremy Mayfield, 14. Jeff Green, 15. Jimmy Spencer, 16. Johnny Benson, 17. Matt Kenseth, 18. Casey Mears, 19. Kyle Petty, 20. Ward Burton, 21. Robby Gordon, 22. Kevin Harvick, 23. Elliott Sadler, 24. Todd Bodine, 25. Rusty Wallace, 26. Joe Nemechek, 27. Dale Jarrett, 28. Ken Schrader, 29. Mark Martin, 30. Bill Elliott, 31. Larry Foyt, 32. Tony Raines, 33. Kenny Wallace, 34. Sterling Marlin, 35. Dave Blaney, 36. Terry Labonte, 37. Ricky Craven, 38. Ricky Rudd, 39, Steve Park, 40. Mike Skinner, 41. Jack Sprague, 42. Hideo Fukuyama, 43. Derrike Cope.