Gordon Regains That Old Magic At Charlotte
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Jeff Gordon was beaming when he strode into Charlotte Motor Speedway’s infield media center Thursday night after claiming his ninth pole at the 1.5-mile track in perhaps the most dramatic qualifying session this season.
The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye seemed to say, “I’m back!” After all, it was his 74th career pole and his second this season. It also came at a track where he won five straight poles for the track’s spring races between 1994 and 1998. And a facility where he still possesses the record for being its youngest pole winner. He set that record on Oct. 10, 1993 at age 22 years, 2 months and 6 days. And, oh yes, he’s still in contention for his fifth championship, trailing standings leader Matt Kenseth by 32 points with six races remaining.
“It’s great to have everyone believing in one another like we do now,” Gordon commented.
The last driver in the Bank of America 500 qualifying session, Gordon watched from pit road as the event’s climax began building seven drivers before his emotionally charged run. Kasey Kahne, the second of 43 drivers to qualify, had taken the provisional pole with a 193.694-mph lap. He held it without a serious challenge until Ryan Newman, the 36th driver to qualify and the owner of nine Charlotte poles, posted a 193.458-mph lap.
That left Newman a close second, but only briefly as Dale Earnhardt Jr. went out next and dropped Newman to third with a lap of 193.535 mph. Next up, Greg Biffle and he succeeded in knocking Kahne from the No. 1 position, posting a193.959-mph lap. Neither Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray nor Jimmie Johnson could unset Biffle. Now, only two drivers remained – Kevin Harvick and Gordon.
Harvick, still riding high from his pole and race victory last weekend at Kansas, unseated Biffle from the No. 1 slot with a 194.203-mph lap.
“I didn’t know what Kevin (Harvick) ran because he was the car right in front of me,” the 42-year-old Gordon said. “I just saw he got the pole. I could see the pylon. I looked out my window when he went by and I saw he was first. I knew that it was better than whatever Kasey (Kahne) ran, which he ran a 27.87 (seconds) and so I knew that I was going to have to run at least a couple of tenths faster than I did or at least a tenth faster than I did in practice. I was just thinking more of where did I leave that on the race track in practice.”
Wherever Gordon left it on the track in practice, he found it in qualifying. Harvick barely had time to climb from his Chevrolet before Gordon rocketed to the top of the lineup with a lap of 194.308 mph, 27.791 seconds.
“It was interesting because typically when we qualify here at night you see the temperatures drop, track temp drops, speeds drop tremendously from practice, but we had such overcast skies today that the track was in almost as good of qualifying conditions then. It was in great condition and the speeds were there and the grip was there so we just had to make a few adjustments to try to make the car a little bit better.”
Gordon noted Thursday was a confidence building session for everyone on his team, including himself.
“There’s nothing greater than when it’s all on the line, all the pressure is there. You’re the final car to go, you had a great practice. There’s nothing worse than letting them down and there’s nothing better than stepping up and knocking it out of the park. That’s what I feel like we did tonight,” the four-time champion said.One Comment