Soaring lap earns Jeff Gordon Sprint Cup pole at Michigan
By Chris Knight
NASCAR Wire Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. – With a lighting fast new track record at Michigan International Speedway, Jeff Gordon earned his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole of the season Friday afternoon after turning a lap of 34.857 seconds at 206.558 miles per hour, ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (noon on ESPN).
Gordon, 42, crushed fellow Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick's track record by three tenths of a second at the two-mile oval set just two months ago. Gordon's qualifying lap was the seventh-fastest pole-winning speed in Sprint Cup history.
The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet knocked Joey Logano from the top spot in the final two minutes of the third and final round of knockout qualifying, establishing the 17th new track record of the season. Gordon also claimed the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
“I don’t know how to make it much better than that,” said Gordon, who earned his 76th career pole in 748 races. “This entire Axalta Chevrolet crew just did a phenomenal job. Our first qualifying effort today, and practice, was not good. I’ve been hearing a lot about tire chatter and we had it big-time.
“The next run out we made some adjustments and it was better. That whole qualifying session, from the first one, second one, and the third session, the car was just near perfect. This is our Brickyard 400 car, so it’s a fast one. And let’s hope we can keep it going fast all day on Sunday.”
Team Penske driver Logano will start on the front row for the seventh time this season, but six of them have been from the outside pole. Even with the defeat, the two-time NSCS winner is optimistic about his chances on Sunday.
“Close, but didn’t quite make it,” offered Logano. “This is our seventh front row start this year, which we are very proud of don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of effort to do that, but we only have one pole. That is frustrating. I have a really fast Shell Pennzoil Ford this weekend and we have been able to keep showing (Team) Penske is very strong in qualifying.
“I have a good car in race trim too. I have something similar to what I had in this race last year that we won the pole and race with. Hopefully we can do it in the race.”
Third-place qualifier Carl Edwards celebrated his 35th birthday at the track Friday and led the Roush Fenway Racing camp with his best start since a fourth at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June.
Behind the top-three starters, Brian Vickers qualified fourth while Rochester Hills, Mich., native Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.
Kevin Harvick wound up sixth followed by Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman comprised the top-12.
Danica Patrick narrowly missed the cut into the final round of knockout qualifying, but will line up her No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet 14th for a personal best starting spot in the Irish Hills.
While Gordon won his sixth career-pole at Michigan International Speedway, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates struggled in time trials.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the points leader entering Sunday’s race, could only manage the 25th quickest lap on Friday. Six-time and reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 30th, while Kasey Kahne qualified 15th.
“We were a little loose on that second run,” said Earnhardt, a three-time winner in NSCS competition this season. “We made a good lap on the first run and expected to go out there and pick-up two or three tenths and the back end was just moving around a lot and real loose and I guess just couldn’t get into the throttle like we needed to. But, I’m real happy with the car in race trim.”
With only 43 cars entered for Sunday’s race, no drivers failed to qualify.