Gordon ties Yarborough for third on career pole list
By: By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
CONCORD, N.C. — With remarkable improvement from Thursday afternoon's practice to Thursday night's qualifying session, Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The pole was Gordon's first since the Nov. 8, 2009 race at Texas, his eighth in 36 races at Charlotte and the 69th of his career, tying him with Cale Yarborough for third on the all-time list.
With a lap at 191.544 mph (28.192 seconds), Gordon edged Carl Edwards (191.455 mph) for the top starting spot in the fifth race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. AJ Allmendinger (190.921 mph) qualified third, followed by Mark Martin (190.914 mph) and Paul Menard (190.678 mph).
With a 32-race pole drought behind him, Gordon now hopes to break a winless streak that reached 59 races last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Gordon has 19 career wins from the pole position.
Though Gordon had won seven poles at Charlotte before Thursday night, his previous one at the 1.5-mile track came from the Oct. 8, 2000 race. He sped to the top of the grid after posting the 33rd-fastest time during practice.
"It was a huge shock," said Gordon, who is fourth in the Cup standings, 85 points behind Chase leader Jimmie Johnson. "We just have not been qualifying good this year, and we haven't qualified this well at Charlotte for 10 years. I felt like there was a time when we were almost like the pole kings—like Ryan Newman lately, when he comes to Charlotte.
"We used to qualify so well here, but competition and cars and different things changing over the years, we just sort of lost our way here, and I'll be honest, today, the way it was going, I didn't think we had any shot at this pole."
Only four Chase drivers qualified in the top 10: Gordon, Edwards, Kyle Busch (sixth) and Johnson (10th). Denny Hamlin, second in the standings and 36 points behind Johnson, starts 23rd, one position ahead of third-place Kevin Harvick.
Chase driver Kurt Busch began his quest for a three-race sweep at Charlotte with a 15th-place qualifying effort. Other Chasers start as follows: Matt Kenseth 17th, Jeff Burton 18th, Clint Bowyer 20th, Greg Biffle 22nd and Tony Stewart 29th.
Joe Nemechek, Casey Mears, Mike Bliss, Jason Leffler, Kevin Conway and Johnny Sauter failed to qualify for the 43-car field.