|Getty Images for NASCAR|
With a track record qualifying lap of 20.674 seconds and average time of 130.599 mph, Jeff Gordon put his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS in the pole position for Saturday night’s 56TH Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR). This was Gordon’s first pole of the season, giving him 21 straight seasons with at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) pole - which breaks the record he had shared with David Pearson of 20. This was also his sixth pole in 42 races at RIR, and 73rd career NSCS pole in 715 races - which makes him third on the all-time list.
Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row/Beautyrest Chevrolet SS, qualified in second position – his eighth front row start and 12th top-10 start of the 2013 NSCS season. Busch, who sits 10th in points, is just six points ahead of Gordon for the coveted top-10 in points needed to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet SS, qualified in seventh position for his sixth top ten start of 2013.
|Kurt Busch, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #78 Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevrolet SS qualified 2nd|
|Harold Hinson for Chevy|
While Hendrick Motorsports driver, Jimmie Johnson, was in North Carolina with his wife, Chani, because their second child was born early this morning; Regan Smith took over practice and qualifying duties for the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet SS. Although Smith qualified the car in 10th, Johnson will have to start from the rear when he returns for the race tomorrow night.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) qualified third, Clint Bowyer (Toyota) qualified fourth, and Matt Kenseth (Toyota) qualified fifth to round out the top-five starters.
The 33rd driver to make a qualifying attempt as the shadows on the .75-mile track were starting to lengthen, Gordon circled the speedway in a track-record 20.674 seconds (130.599 mph), dislodging Busch from the top spot.
The driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet, who went out fifth under benefit of cloud cover, had matched the mark of 130.334 mph Matt Kenseth had set in April 2013.
Reigning series champion Brad Keselowski, in desperate need of a victory to keep his waning Chase hopes alive, qualified third at 130.158 mph. Clint Bowyer (130.020 mph) was fourth fastest, followed by Kenseth (129.864 mph).
|Jeff Gordon, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS captured the pole with a track record qualifying lap of 20.674 seconds and fastest speed of 130.599 mph|
|Harold Hinson for Chevy|
The Coors Light Pole Award was Gordon’s first of the season, his sixth at Richmond and the 73rd of his career -- putting him third on the all-time list. Gordon’s qualifying run gave him at least one pole in 21 consecutive seasons, breaking a record he shared with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson.
Gordon, who rallied from a lap down to edge Kyle Busch for the final Chase spot in last year’s regular-season finale at Richmond, is one of seven drivers who can secure a Chase spot with a victory. Busch can do the same.
"It’s not very often you get to break a record David Pearson set, so that’s really incredible," Gordon said. "I’m pretty overwhelmed and blown away by that record itself and being able to accomplish that. I didn’t think it was going to happen this year. We just have not been qualifying well…
"The car was just driving well, and when I saw Kurt put that good lap up at the beginning, and then I saw that cloud go away, I was a little bit nervous whether we had enough. But on the first lap, the car stuck good, and I knew that I had a little bit more in me for the second lap, and it did all the things I wanted it to."
The timing couldn’t have been better for Gordon, who is 11th in the Cup standings without a win this season and trails Busch in 10th by six points.
"That’s huge, to be able to do that at a crucial time, get that No. 1 pit stall (closest to the exit from pit road) and set ourselves up to do what we’re going to have to do here (Saturday)," Gordon said. "It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a hard fight, and I think we just got that little bit of confidence boost that we need."
Adjustments to his car after practice helped Busch secure his eighth front-row starting position of the season, only one of which was a pole.
"We made a lot of changes, and it turned out to be a great lap," Busch said. "I didn’t know if it would stick for the pole or not, and we ended up outside pole… It’s cool that we’re on the front row and hanging out up front with Gordon."
If Gordon and Busch will battle for a Chase spot, so will Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman, who currently are in a heated struggle for the final wild card position. Truex holds the edge in the matchup by five points and backed that up with an 11th-place run in time trials. Newman qualified 24th.
Other drivers fighting for the remaining five Chase berths claimed the following starting spots: Jamie McMurray, seventh; Joey Logano, eighth; Greg Biffle, ninth; and Dale Earnhardt Jr., 14th. Earnhardt can lock up a Chase spot with a finish of 32nd or better without leading a lap.
The Federated Auto Parts 400 will take the green flag on Saturday evening, September 7th at 7:30 p.m. ET and air live on ABC and PRN Radio.
||Drive To End Hunger
||Home Depot Husky
||Lowe's / Kobalt Tools
||Martin Truex Jr
||NAPA Auto Parts
||Juan Pablo Montoya
||M&M's American Heritage Chocolate
||Dale Earnhardt Jr
||Time Warner Cable
||Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1
||LG Partner of the Year/Aarons
||Ricky Stenhouse Jr
||Menards / Pittsburgh Paints
||No. 13 GEICO Ford Fusion
||The Pete Store
||CRC Brakleen Chevrolet
||Phil Parsons Racing
||AM FM Energy
||Burger King-Dr. Pepper
||Burger King-Dr. Pepper
||Long John Silver's
||Leavine Family Racing
||Little Joe's Autos.com
||Federated Auto Parts
||United Mining Equipment
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS, POLE WINNER:
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN: "Obviously that was big - it was really big. Of course to address the record with (David) Pearson. It is not very often you get to break a record that David Pearson set. So that is really incredible. I'm pretty overwhelmed, and blown away by that record in itself and to be able to accomplish that. I didn't think it was going to happen this year. We just have not been qualifying well. I like to pride myself in my qualifying, and it has just been little things here and there that have kept us from getting it. Today just went really smooth. The car was good in the first practice in race runs. We swapped over for qualifying trim in the second one and went straight to the top of the board. The car was just driving well. I saw Kurt (Busch) put that great lap up at the beginning. Then I saw the cloud go away. I was a little bit nervous as to whether we had enough. On the first lap the car stuck good, and I knew I had a little bit more in me for the second lap. It did all the things I wanted it to do. That's huge to be able to do that at a crucial time. Get that number one pit stall, and set ourselves up to do what we are going to have to do tomorrow. It is going to be tough. It is going to be a hard fight. That little bit of confidence that we needed; this is what this gives us. The car just feels really good, and I am just excited to get the race going tomorrow."
HOW INTERESTING DO YOU EXPECT THE FIRST LAP TO BE WITH KURT STARTING ALONGSIDE YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) STARTING RIGHT BEHIND YOU? "It depends on everybody's attitude and goals are. I think we all know Kurt is a very aggressive guy, so I would think he is probably going to try to fight pretty hard to get himself in position. Not only for track position, but it is important for him to lead a lap just like it is important for me to lead a lap. I would imagine that there will be a little big of battling there. I have been in this sport a long time; the race is not won on the first lap. I will try to get the best start that I can and try to get the lead. If I feel like I'm not wearing the tires out too much to get it, or to keep it. Then we will try to stay up there. But, this is a long race. You have got to be smart. We found that out last year. Halfway through this race, we were done. We didn't give up on it, and look what happened. So we have to take that approach when the green flag drops tomorrow. You have to fight hard, and you have to be smart as well."
DID YOU GET EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD GET OUT OF THE CAR ON THE LAP? OR WAS THERE MAYBE A LITTLE BIT LEFT? "There is always a little bit left Stan (Creekmore). You know that. Until a computer is driving the car, I don't know if it going to be perfect. I felt like I got everything out of it. If you scan me, you know that when I cross the line, I make comments. When I crossed the line, please tell me that's it, because I thought it was. And, it was. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) was a little confused because he was on his stop-watch, and his stop-watch said a .70 so he knew it was really close. Then he came back and said it was a .67. I knew that was a great lap. Didn't know if that was going to hold up,
‘”We got behind a cloud there, especially when the NO. 20 (Matt Kenseth) went. And it was really, really close. So, I knew it was a good lap though. The car has been good all day and I was really thrilled that we backed it up when we went to qualifying. When you qualify here, you pick up six-tenths from practice and/or half a second. When you push as hard as you can in practice, you just can’t comprehend that the track has that much in it. And yet you go and push it and it does. Today it stuck and that was great.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU MADE A STATEMENT TODAY?
“We made a better statement than it we would have qualified 35th (laughter). If you think qualifying 35th meant something, then I think qualifying first means something as well.
“To me, it’s just really about building momentum and confidence throughout the weekend to know that we’re fine-tuning but we’re not looking and searching for big things. That’s the kind of day that we’ve had and specially since we’ve gone into qualifying trim. But that number one pit stall is big.
“Track position is big. So, did we make a statement? Yeah. But so did Kurt (Busch) and Brad (Keselowski). I find it so fascinating. You come into this race and there’s all these guys that are all in this bubble or whatever you want to call it to make the Chase. And all of a sudden, they all just step up to another level and I think that makes for a really interesting conversation of what’s going to happen prior to the race, and when that green flag drops of what’s going to happen throughout the whole race.”
THIS IS THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW YOU’VE HAD TO RACE YOUR WAY INTO THE CHASE. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE MORE CONFIDENT KNOWING WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO ACCOMPLISH THAT? AND HOW IS STARTING AT THE FRONT GOING TO HELP YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT?
“I’m certainly a lot more comfortable. Last year I was really on edge and it was stressful. The entire weekend was stressful. And I’ve been a lot more calm this weekend. I don’t know exactly why other than I think because we went through so much last year that it does help prepare you to deal with whatever is thrown at you and know that you’re giving your best. This is only step one. We started pretty good here last year, if I remember correctly.
“This is a good track, qualifying-wise, for me. I thought we started pretty good but we faded fast. We did the same thing here earlier this year. That was our primary goal why we tested here, and our primary goal to learn today when we got here. And that’s what I’m excited about. Not only did we qualify well and get the pole, but I think we have a much better car for the race in the long runs as well.”
NORMALLY QUALIFYING SECOND WOULD BE A GOOD THING AND KURT BUSCH WAS. BUT THE FACT THAT YOU QUALIFIED FIRST DOESN’T MAKE IT AS GOOD FOR HIM ANYMORE. ARE YOU HAPPY HE IS THINKING ABOUT THAT AND WHAT HE COULD HAVE DONE AND THAT IT’S KIND OF IN HIS HEAD NOW?
“I that there’s not doubt we all recognize what’s on the line here. We all recognize the conversations that are going on about who is going to do it and who is going get in the top 10 and who is going to be the wild card. And I think that while I don’t necessarily agree that we should be singling us out, it does seem like that was the questions I was getting asked about yesterday. I think there are too many other guys out there that we really have to race; not only to win this race, but also to make it in. But then, we go one-two in qualifying. So that’s pretty ironic. At this point, I’ll take every little boost and bit of confidence and little victory that we can, and today was a good one.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/BEAUTYREST CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED SECOND
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT AND WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS FOR TOMORROW NIGHT:
“It was a great lap for us. We made a lot of changes and it turned out to be a great lap. I didn’t know if it would stick for the pole or not. We end up outside pole which I think now that is like you said seven outside poles for us this year, eight, one pole and a bunch of outside poles, I don’t know if that and a dollar bill gets you a Big Glup (laughs).
“It’s cool that we are on the front row and hanging out up front with (Jeff) Gordon. The way that it shakes out it’s just a front row starting spot which is great for our crew guys. We will have a good pit box selection. We will probably choose the one with the opening that is in front of it back around I think pit box 17.
“That first pit box is nice. I got the pole here once at Richmond before and you can just fall right off the jack and trigger that line. We will see that No. 24 use that to his advantage all night. So we know that little bit of difference in the lap time we just ran will give him a nice advantage all night long. Our guys will know that and then once we settle into the race it’s a matter of just making sure we focus on our drive off and not spin those rear tires.
“This is cool. Here we are the two guys battling it out for the last spot. Like the bottom of the seventh I feel like we have a one run lead and it’s off to the final few innings.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS IN SITUATIONS LIKE THIS IN HIGH PRESSURE SITUATIONS THAT GUYS WHO HAVE THEIR BACKS AGAINST THE WALL THEY SEEM TO RISE TO THE OCCASION?
“I’m going to just draw the parallel that all three of us have and that is the Sprint Cup trophy that is sitting in our trophy room. It also comes down to great teams making the adjustments to know how the track speed is going to pick up and then the driver has to drive with that increased speed. We picked up eight tenths from where we practiced. Eight tenths is a lot and also on our computer and some of our simulation it said that from the beginning of qualifying to the end of qualifying the track is going to pick up eight hundredths. (Jeff) Gordon went out right around in the middle and he beat us by four hundredths. It’s ridiculous how close computers are getting these days with simulation. That is all the teams doing that and the drivers have to go out there and back that up. That is why you probably see us three up there.”
IN THINKING BACK, WAS THERE A SINGLE INSTANT IN YOUR QUALIFYING LAP THAT YOU THINK COULD HAVE KEPT YOU AT THE TOP OR WAS IT JUST TIMING?
“You know the track going out fifth it was very early to go out, but we also had cloud cover in the beginning and I think that helped us equalize some of that track conditions picking up a quicker pace towards the end. I don’t know I look at turn two maybe. Didn’t quite swat the throttle as hard as I maybe could have, but I also watched Brad (Keselowski) slip his tire off turn two and end up third. We are going to take second. We came from all the way back in 19th in practice now we are outside pole and now we get into our comfort zone of going through the debrief and looking at our set-up notes. Maybe we can translate a couple of things from our qualifying run and add them to our race trim and carry those with us all night long.”
WATCHING THE MONITOR AND WATCHING THE TRACKER IT SEEMED LIKE IF YOU EVER GET BELOW INTO THE RED NOBODY EVER COMES BACK UP. IS THAT THE WAY IT IS WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE MISSED A TURN DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO GET IT BACK ? NOT YOU BUT EVERYBODY IN GENERAL?
“When you are at a short track there is really no time to gain that little slip. I’m having a hard time explaining, but at a short track any time you throw away you are never going to get it back. At a mile and a half you can get it back on the other end of the track because there is that much more space left, track distance. I learned that in drag racing. In a quarter mile there is no time to waste. Once you throw away a thousandth you are never going to get it back. So the moment you feel like at a short track that you slip well there is only three quarters of a mile around here you can’t get that time back.”
DO YOU EXPECT A LOT OF DICING ON THE FIRST LAP FOR YOU GUYS TO TRY TO GET THAT BONUS POINT BETWEEN THE THREE OF YOU?
“Yeah, there is the bonus point for leading a lap and I’m looking at our car over the long run. We’ve got a job to do to complete 400 laps and the first one isn’t the important one. It’s lap 400. So we will see how it shakes out if Jeff (Gordon) slips his tires I will take advantage of that and try to lead the first segment of the race. Otherwise the game plan is to let him lead on the start because I’m on the outside. It’s not the preferred lane and then by lap 10 we will see how the sequence pans out or even sooner if our car is going to come to life and want to pass his.”
YOU ARE A STRONG RICHMOND RACER ARE YOU GLAD THIS IS THE TRACK YOU HAVE FOR THE CHASE?
“This is a cool place to come to because of the balance of the short track atmosphere versus the speeds here are greater at this track than the normal short tracks. Then the tire drop off the pace is so fast for qualifying and then by lap 30 you are going to hear everybody on their radios asking for rear grip, the rear is sliding all around and the rear can’t hook up. So you’ve got to manage your tires throughout the tire run. It’s a great challenging track that you could get caught pinned down by a pit sequence as well.”