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Riggs, Mayfield make an Evernham front row

AP Auto Racing Writer

CONCORD, N.C. - Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield made it an all-Evernham Motorsports front row Thursday by taking the top two qualifying spots for the Coca-Cola 600.

Riggs, who went out midway through qualifying, put himself on the pole with a lap of 187.865 mph. He then had to wait out the competition, which included Jimmie Johnson, winner of seven of the last 10 races at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Johnson just missed bumping him off the pole, then Riggs only had his teammate to worry about. Mayfield was the final driver to qualify, and his first lap of 187.292 was good enough for second place.

Riggs let out a sigh of relief while Mayfield, who is having a horrendous season, celebrated his near-miss.

''My teammate put a lap down that we couldn't touch,'' Mayfield said. ''It's cool to see an Evernham front row for a change.''

It was the second consecutive pole at Lowe's for Riggs, who took the top starting spot for the Nextel Open last week. He won that race to earn a spot into the All-Star Challenge, and finished 10th.

He brought a different Dodge Charger back this week on the advice of team director Rodney Childers.

''He knew this is a better car, and he knew if we didn't win the pole we would wonder if we left something out there,'' Riggs said.

Riggs, in his first season with Evernham, has made huge strides since missing out on the season-opening Daytona 500. But part of his emergence has come at the expense of Mayfield, who lost valuable crew members when Evernham expanded to three teams for Riggs.

''I know that he's been pretty down the last few weeks, pretty frustrated,'' Riggs said. ''It's not been a lack of effort. His team has the most new members. I think that now, the team is coming around, running well, qualified good today and also ran well last weekend.''

Johnson, who is going for his fourth consecutive 600 win, will start third. J.J. Yeley will start fourth in his first start in NASCAR's longest race of the year.

''I remember last year trying to watch the thing, I think I had three naps,'' Yeley said.

Bobby Labonte, who narrowly lost this race last year in a door-to-door battle with Johnson through the final turn, qualified fifth. He was followed by Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, rookie Denny Hamlin, the third Evernham entry of Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Green.

Michael Waltrip failed to qualify, snapping his consecutive start streak at 261 races. He had not missed an event since Phoenix in October of 1998.