Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins The Pole In Richmond
Dale Earnhardt Jr. collected his first Richmond International Raceway pole Friday afternoon when he turned a lap at 127.023 mph.
The pole was also the first of the season for Earnhardt, and his first since the 2011 Daytona 500.
“It feels good,” Earnhardt, who will start Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race with a Chase berth locked in place. “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.”
Starting next to Earnhardt will be his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, who has not locked up a berth in the Chase, which begins next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Gordon put himself in position for a last-ditch attempt to qualify for the Chase for th with a second-place run at 126.981 mph. Gordon can dislodge Kyle Busch from the second provisional wild-card position by winning the race (if Tony Stewart remains in the top 10 in the Cup 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 today 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 today, and our car was solid, so (I’m) pretty excited about this race tomorrow.”
Third fastest in qualifying was Regan Smith in a Furniture Row Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing, and Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick, rounded out the top five.
Mark Martin, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the first ten qualifiers.
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