MOTEGI, Japan (AP) _ Jeremy Mayfield won the pole Saturday in the NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi Coca Cola 500 exhibition race at Twin Ring Motegi race track.

Mayfield tore around the 1.5 mile track in a time of 35.116 seconds, which translates into 158.799 mph, to beat out Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon by .027 seconds.

Outside of the front row, Mike Skinner will attempt to defend his Japanese title (he won last year at Suzuka) from third on the starting grid. Elliott Sadler will start alongside him in his new ride, the No. 21 Citgo Ford.

Darrell Waltrip, subbing for the injured Dale Jarrett in the No. 88 Quality Care Ford, starts fifth, while Jeff Burton, piloting a special Bruce Lee Ford, starts sixth.

Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Jr. , and Lance Norick round out the top 10 in the 31-car field.

Dale Earnhardt, starting his first race with his son, will go from the 15th spot on the grid.