Gordon finds pole at one of his least successful tracks, turning fast lap at Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The sun shined down on NASCAR on Friday and Jeff Gordon took full advantage of the chance to qualify for a Sprint Cup race for the first time in a month.
After qualifying was rained out three straight weeks, with NASCAR lining up the cars by points, Gordon won the pole for Sunday's Dickies 500 on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval. His fast lap of 188.469 mph relegated early leader Martin Truex Jr. to second at 188.003 in the 43-car field.
It was the fourth pole of the season for the four-time series champion, as well as the 67th of his career. But it was Gordon's first pole in 16 tries at Texas.
"Texas has not been our best track, so this is really good," said Gordon, whose only last-place finishes have both been at Texas, including finishing 43rd here last spring.
"It's a great start to the weekend," Gordon noted. "I'm always optimistic any time we go to any racetrack, whether we've been good or bad. As a race team we're just good enough to overcome anything that tries to tear us down.
"I came in here knowing that we've made huge changes and gains with our race package and our cars. The first lap on the track is always the first sign of where you are. The first lap I thought, `Well, this thing feels pretty good, just too tight.' We kept freeing it up and the car just kept getting faster and faster.
"It's a fantastic feeling and I'm still pretty shocked we came here and the car felt as good as it has today."
Gordon said he definitely didn't expect to win the pole Friday.
"The irony of it is the last three weeks not being able to qualify at tracks where I thought we had a pretty good chance to win the pole, and then to come here and win the pole at a track where I didn't really think we had a chance to win it," added Gordon, who is winless this season despite qualifying for the Chase for the championship. "I can't wait for Sunday."
Texas and Homestead, where the Cup drivers finish the season, are the only tracks on the current schedule at which Gordon, who has 81 career victories, has not won.
Series leader and defending race winner Jimmie Johnson, who started from the top spot after each of the rainouts, won't have the benefit of the first pick of pit positions this week after qualifying seventh.
The rest of the drivers in the Chase were well down the lineup, with series runner-up Carl Edwards, 183 points behind Johnson, 16th; Denny Hamlin 17th; third-place Greg Biffle 19th; Kevin Harvick 23rd; Kyle Busch 29th; and fourth-place Jeff Burton a very disappointing 38th.
"I'm glad we were able to get this [qualifying] in just to be able to spread the guys out in the Chase," said Edwards, who didn't seem very concerned to be starting so far back in the field. "It's not the best qualifying effort for us, but ... we've got a great race car."
Eighteen-year-old phenom Joey Logano qualified for his third Cup start and first in a car fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing, for whom he will race in 2009. The youngster, who will replace two-time Cup champion Stewart in the No. 20 Toyota next year, will start in last place.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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