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Gordon Wins Pole, Suggests Big Changes

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011

Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin in the garages at Talladega. The qualified first and third respectively Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Sharon Ellman)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Jeff Gordon led a Hendrick Motorsports land rush during qualifying and won the pole on Saturday for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. And then he issued some shocking suggestions to NASCAR officials.Gordon’s pole winning lap was at 178.248 mph.

The three cars behind Gordon’s on the speed chart after qualifying were driven by his Hendrick teammates at Jimmie Johnson was second fastest, Mark Martin was third and Dale Earnhardt was fourth.

Johnson’s lap was at 177.844 mph.

The Hendrick quad sweep marked just the second time a team has done that in the modern era of racing. Roush Racing did it in 2005.

“It is funny how a plan comes together when you least expect,” Gordon said. “I was in the truck after I made my run, Mark (Martin) was sitting second and Jimmie (Johnson) was coming up and we were tracking his run and knew it was a good one, I said ‘Come on. Second. Second. Second’ because if he was second it just made it all perfect for us with the plan that we have in place so far. He was second and put Mark right behind us and the No. 88 behind him so it is as good as we could possibly ask for.

“If we could write the script, we couldn’t have written it any better. It is going to be interesting how it alters our plan for the race because our plan coming in here was not to ride up front. So, we’ll kind of see how it plays out. Obviously we would love to lead the lap and we’d love to lead the most laps if that is possible. With this two-car draft, you don’t know how long you can stay up there.”

Fifth fastest was Paul Menard of Richard Childress Racing.

Landon Cassill was a surprising sixth fastest.

Rounding out the top 10 were David Ragan of Roush Fenway Racing, Kurt Busch of Penske Racing, Brian Vickers of Red Bull Racing and Clint Bowyer of RCR.

Trevor Bayne of Wood Brothers Racing, the winner of the Daytona 500, was 11th.

Carl Edwards, the series points leader, was 20th.

Despite winning the pole, Gordon said changes are needed in the current form of plate racing.

And the changes he suggested were fairly radical.

“It felt like I could walk faster than I was going out there,’ Gordon said. “I just don’t see why we’re not running a different restrictor plate for qualifying or a different spoiler. Something that NASCAR hands us that is the same for everybody to make it more interesting. To me, that qualifying session was just a snoozer. It is because we are doing two laps by ourselves doing 177 mph. That had nothing to do with me. Anybody could drive that car at that speed. So let’s make it a little more interesting. I don’t see why we can’t get up there into the 200 mile-per-hour range qualifying.

“I think they have done an excellent job with these cars making them safer; finding out what they do in the wind tunnel to stay on the ground when they turn around sideways say if a tire were to blow at that speed for whatever reason…you ran over something. I would like to see us qualify faster just to make it more entertaining for the fans as well as for us the drivers. We’re not doing anything out there right now. It would be fun to go to Talladega or Daytona and the driver plays a little bit more of a role.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 17 2011
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