|Jeff Gordon earned his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season|
|Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images|
In what will likely be his last-ever start in a restrictor-plate race, Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the green flag for the 81st time in his career as he scored his second straight Talladega Speedway pole in Saturday's qualifying sessions for Sunday's CampingWorld.com 500, the final race in the "Contender Round" in the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Gordon's no. 24 3M Chevrolet led both rounds of qualifying in Saturday's session, earning the top spot with a lap of 49.234 seconds (194.500 mph) for his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season. Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne ran second in both rounds to earn the outside pole. Fellow HMS driver Jimmie Johnson was third, followed by Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt. Jr. was fifth to put all four Hendrick cars in the top five.
Saturday's pole was Gordon's fourth at Talladega – including his front row start last May where he finished 31. Gordon is currently sixth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, having yet to win a race this season.
"I did know we had a fast car, but I wasn't sure," said Gordon. "This is a different car than what we had here earlier this year. We really feel like we were dominant here in May. I made a mistake getting too aggressive to pit road. Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes and we can take advantage of that No. 1 pit stall or selection anyway, as well as, a very fast racecar and try to keep it up front."
Matt Kenseth's third-place starting spot was a welcome relief for the driver with the biggest deficit to overcome on Sunday, coming into this weekend's race dead-last among the 12 drivers vying to be one of the eight drivers who survive to advance to the next round of the Chase.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"One thing about Talladega is you always have to expect the unexpected so who knows what's going to happen," said Kenseth. "Everybody wants to qualify well and try to get an early pick on your pit stall if you can and do all those kinds of things.
"With this kind of racing you make one wrong move or pick a line to stop moving then you could be 30th before you even know it within a lap. Starting position not super, super important here, but yet I'd rather be toward the front than in the back."
Chase contender Martin Truex, Jr. will also have a hill to climb to get to the front of the pack after his qualifying time was disallowed after he dropped below the double yellow lines during the opening round, sending him to the rear of the field for the start of the Sunday's race
Truex, Jr. was nonplussed by NASCAR's ruling, saying he was unaware of the rule, but at the same time was not concerned about starting in the rear.
"Yeah, I didn't know you couldn't do that here in qualifying," said Truex, Jr. "We have done it the last few times. I didn't get the memo that you couldn't do that this time around. Just done what we have done here the last few times and didn't realize there was a rule change.
"It won't change (our race strategy) at all. We started in the back last time too. We will be fine."
Other starting positions for the Chase contenders are Kevin Harvick (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Joey Logano (tenth), Brad Keselowski (11th), Kurt Busch (14th), Carl Edwards (15th), Kyle Busch (16th) and Ryan Newman (18th).
Jeb Burton and Michael Annett failed to qualify for the race.
|5||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Chevy||193.162||49.575||–0.341|
|17||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Ford||191.981||49.880||–0.646|
|21||9||Sam Hornish Jr||Ford||191.750||49.940||–0.706|
|43||78||Martin Truex Jr||Chevy||0.000||0.000||-49.234|
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