Dale Jr. wins Richmond pole as Hendrick cars dominate

Dale Jr. on pole in one of the last races uses the rear steer car
Getty Images for NASCAR

Dale Earnhardt Jr. did exactly what was necessary to win the pole for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway — and teammate Jeff Gordon did more than enough to make Kyle Busch very nervous.

The 44th of 45 drivers to make a qualifying attempt in Friday's time trials, Earnhardt toured the three-quarters-mile speedway in 21.526 seconds (127.023 mph) to claim his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Richmond and the 11th of his career.

But it was Gordon who put himself in position for a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a second-place run at 126.981 mph. Gordon can dislodge Busch from the second provisional wild-card position by winning the race (if Tony Stewart remains in the top 10 in the standings) or by beating Busch by more than 12 points, if no wild-card contender with one victory wins on Saturday night.

Busch posted the 15th-fastest time on Friday and will start the race 13 positions — the equivalent of 13 points — behind Gordon, setting up a dramatic shootout for the final wild-card spot.

"I think [Friday] was a big mission accomplished for us," Gordon said. "We were very solid in practice all day. I know exactly where I left a little bit out there in [Turns] 1 and 2. I got everything out of it in 3 and 4. But in 1 and 2, I knew I got down to the yellow line too early and just couldn't get back to the gas as hard as I needed to.

"When you do that, you know that there's somebody out there that has a shot of getting you. Second is still a fantastic effort. We had a great practice [Friday], and our car was solid, so [I'm] pretty excited about this race [Saturday]."

Earnhardt, who already has qualified for the Chase, saw the efforts of his No. 88 team to improve the qualifying performance pay off.

"We've been working the last two years to improve … and this year we made some gains," Earnhardt said. "It feels good to get a pole position and know that we're doing something right there.

"It gives us a good starting spot for [Saturday]. We feel pretty confident about the car after practice [Friday], and starting up front is an advantage. I'm happy that we're performing well and look forward to the race."


DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, POLE WINNER: ON HIS LAP: “It feels good. I’ve not really been the best of qualifiers the last couple of years. We have a lot of improvements we’ve made this year. It feels good to get a pole."

HOW IMPORTANT IS A WIN HERE TOMORROW NIGHT? “I think everybody wants to get the win to kick the Chase off, and go into the Chase with a lot of confidence. It’s a fun race track; we love running here. I think we’ll have a good car tomorrow."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 2ND: DID YOU GET EVERYTHING OUT OF YOUR LAP AND THEN SOME? “I did in (turns) three and four. I got (turns) three and four great coming to the green (flag) and coming back to the white (flag). I just didn’t quite get through (turns) one and two the way I would have liked to. I actually got down to the yellow line a little bit earlier than I wanted to. I could have carried a little bit more speed in there. There is some speed left out there, but still a solid day for this Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. I love having Chase credit card services on board and all the support of this Drive To End Hunger program. We will just see where we end up. It has been a solid day, we have a good race car, from here on out we are guaranteed a top 10 spot and we will see where we end up."

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 3RD: YOU SAID THE SUN GOING INTO (TURN) THREE IS MAYBE THE BIGGEST ISSUE FOR GUYS RIGHT NOW? “Yeah, every time we come here and qualify it is that perfect time of the day where the sun is right in your eye. If anything I think that is going to be the biggest issue, but good lap for the Furniture Row Chevy. I was real happy with it. I didn’t quite get what I wanted that second lap, but the first lap was enough. We are proud of that. Hopefully it stays up in the top five somewhere. Nonetheless, these guys have been working really hard. The guys in the shop have been working really hard. Todd Barrier came on board a few weeks back with us and that has been a good change, a lot of excitement out of this team."

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET- QUALIFIED 5TH: WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE THERE ON YOUR LAP? YOU NARROWLY MISSED THE POLE: “I can promise you it wasn’t from a lack of effort. I didn’t make my second lap because I was pinned on effort level there (laughs). Great lap, it’s hard to think that it’s going to stay up there in the top three being as early as it is. For the time of day good lap, picked up right around a second I guess from practice. Things feel good so we will get this Lowe’s Chevy dusted off and ready to go for tomorrow night."


1 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 127.023 21.256 Leader
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 126.981 21.263 -0.007
3 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 126.910 21.275 -0.019
4 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 126.808 21.292 -0.036
5 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 126.790 21.295 -0.039
6 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 126.784 21.296 -0.040
7 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 126.671 21.315 -0.059
8 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 126.600 21.327 -0.071
9 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 126.553 21.335 -0.079
10 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 126.547 21.336 -0.080
11 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 126.410 21.359 -0.103
12 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King 126.139 21.405 -0.149
13 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 126.080 21.415 -0.159
14 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 126.074 21.416 -0.160
15 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 126.033 21.423 -0.167
16 99 Carl Edwards Ford Kellogg's 126.033 21.423 -0.167
17 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Best Buy 125.974 21.433 -0.177
18 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 125.939 21.439 -0.183
19 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 125.880 21.449 -0.193
20 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 125.845 21.455 -0.199
21 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Quaker State 125.722 21.476 -0.220
22 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Mac Tools 125.692 21.481 -0.225
23 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / Owens & Minor 125.599 21.497 -0.241
24 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 125.546 21.506 -0.250
25 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Moen 125.511 21.512 -0.256
26 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 125.389 21.533 -0.277
27 34 David Ragan Ford Taco Bell 125.389 21.533 -0.277
28 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 125.371 21.536 -0.280
29 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Bush's Baked Beans 125.342 21.541 -0.285
30 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 125.226 21.561 -0.305
31 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 125.052 21.591 -0.335
32 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 124.988 21.602 -0.346
33 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 124.890 21.619 -0.363
34 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 124.879 21.621 -0.365
35 38 David Gilliland Ford Mossy Oak / Pursuit Channel 124.746 21.644 -0.388
36 33 Stephen Leicht* Chevrolet Special Ops OPSEC 124.723 21.648 -0.392
37 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet Inc. 5000 / @TMone 6-peat 124.706 21.651 -0.395
38 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 124.539 21.680 -0.424
39 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 124.407 21.703 -0.447
40 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 124.315 21.719 -0.463
41 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 124.161 21.746 -0.490
42 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 124.087 21.759 -0.503
43 191 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Plinker Tactical 123.779 21.813 -0.557
DNQ 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Max Q Workforce 123.468 21.868 -0.612
DNQ 0 Mark Green Toyota Blue Ox 120.962 22.321 -1.065

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie

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