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Pole-Meister Gordon Secures P1 At Talladega

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2015
Jeff Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson found what they were looking for on Friday in Las Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Jeff Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson put together a pole-winning car for Talladega. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Old system, new system or a hybrid of the two, Jeff Gordon remains one of the best pole-day drivers in the history of stock car racing.

On Saturday, Gordon greeted the debut of the new hybrid format for sprint-logo-08qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway with a dominating pole-securing run for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race.

Gordon turned a fast lap of 49.160 seconds (194.793 mph) at the 2.66-mile oval and in doing so, won his third pole of the season – the others coming at 2.5-mile Daytona in February and at the Las Vegas intermediate oval in March.

It was the 80th career pole for the 43-year-old Gordon, putting him third on the all-time list behind Richard Petty (123) and David Pearson (113).

And it came during a qualifying session that featured a blending of the long-time two-lap run with the multi-segment “knockout” format which was instituted last season.

“I am so proud of this pole because we got the pole in Daytona (in February),” Gordon said, “but it was a totally different format.”

Kasey Kahne, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate,  was second fastest in qualifying at Talladega with a lap at 193.685 mph.

Two other Hendrick drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson – also advanced to the 12-driver second qualifying segment and ended up four and fifth on the time sheet.

Only Ryan Blaney, driving the Wood Brothers Racing Ford, kept Hendrick from sweeping the top four spots.

“The Hendrick cars are really strong,” Kahne said, “and the engines are running great. Our Farmers Insurance Chevy was fast right there.  I told Jeff (Gordon, pole sitter) I was coming to the front row. I knew I wouldn’t beat him because he is really quick, but I knew we could get up to second.  I was really happy with that. It is a good starting spot. Hopefully tomorrow we stay out of trouble and we are  there at the end and have a shot.”

Avoiding trouble will be at the top of all 43-drivers at a track known as much for huge wrecks as memorable races.

Gordon will be looking for his first victory of the season and the de facto Chase berth that will go with it.

The four-time champion, who is likely appearing in his final full Cup season, appeared to be the man to beat at Daytona this year. He used his P1 starting spot to lead 87 laps and was in control when things went sideways.

First he got shuffled to the back on a key restart and then he got involved in a huge last-lap crash. Gone was what, it turns out, was his best shot at a victory in 2015.

At Talladega on Sunday, he is hoping things – like his No. 24 Chevy – don’t go sideways again.

“It’s a different type of restrictor plate racing here with tapered spacers or whatever we have on them these days,” Gordon said. “And so, I think that at Daytona, track position means a little bit more than it does here. This place is so wide and fast and you can get multiple lanes that really work, and make some moves there. It’s always great to have a fast car and know you have a fast car and have track position and have that number one pit stall. So, we’ll try to take advantage of those things.

“I think at Daytona, a lot of what happened was restarts, really. So, it’s about not just you getting a good restart, but the car behind you and the car behind them all getting lined-up and getting some pushes and things on those restarts to maintain that lead. I think obviously with as good a race car as we have, if we can get out front I think we can stay out front. But to me, every time I come to Talladega since maybe the last eight to 10 years, it’s like an 80 percent chance you’re going to get caught-up in a wreck; and how do you avoid that?

“That, to me, is my first goal is just getting to the finish. And then hopefully we can find a to put ourselves in position to win. If we can stay out front, that would make it a lot easier. Easier said than done.”

Blaney’s second-row-securing run was his best in four attempts for the Wood Brothers this year.

“I’m pretty happy with the speed compared to our teammates,” Blaney, who qualified fourth-fastest at Talladega last fall, said. “We had a lot more speed than they did.  Everyone at the Wood Brothers team did a great job today and it’s nice to be back at the race track, especially after a bad weekend at Texas, blowing up on like lap 18.  It’s nice to be back and know we have some good speed.  You can’t really carry much of that over into the race, but at least you get a good starting spot, good pit stall and you’ve got stuff to look forward to.  We’ll try to stay out of trouble. I think that’s gonna be the big thing for us is trying to run all the laps because we’ve blown up in two or three races this year and it’s gonna be big for this team just to finish a race and run everything.  I think we’ve got a good car and we’ll see where it brings us tomorrow.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – GEICO 500

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

Saturday, May 02, 2015

  1. (24)  Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 194.793 mph.
  2. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 193.685 mph.
  3. (21)  Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 193.611 mph.
  4. (88)  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 193.599 mph.
  5. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 193.427 mph.
  6. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 193.419 mph.
  7. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 193.412 mph.
  8. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 193.357 mph.
  9. (18)  David Ragan, Toyota, 193.006 mph.
  10. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 192.808 mph.
  11. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 192.703 mph.
  12. (9)  Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 192.343 mph.
  13. (42)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 192.792 mph.
  14. (3)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 192.789 mph.
  15. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.777 mph.
  16. (33)  Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 192.765 mph.
  17. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 192.738 mph.
  18. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 192.715 mph.
  19. (41)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 192.680 mph.
  20. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 192.672 mph.
  21. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 192.622 mph.
  22. (19)  Carl Edwards, Toyota, 192.587 mph.
  23. (55)  Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 192.181 mph.
  24. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 192.050 mph.
  25. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 191.835 mph.
  26. (6)  Trevor Bayne, Ford, 191.727 mph.
  27. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 191.627 mph.
  28. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 191.616 mph.
  29. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 191.581 mph.
  30. (40)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 191.497 mph.
  31. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 191.252 mph.
  32. (32)  Bobby Labonte, Ford, 191.176 mph.
  33. (62)  Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 191.016 mph.
  34. (98)  Josh Wise, Ford, 190.757 mph.
  35. (51)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 190.738 mph.
  36. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 190.715 mph.
  37. (7)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Owner Points
  38. (34)  Chris Buescher(i), Ford, Owner Points
  39. (38)  David Gilliland, Ford, Owner Points
  40. (46)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, Owner Points
  41. (35)  Cole Whitt, Ford, Owner Points
  42. (23)  JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Owner Points
  43. (83)  Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, Owner Points

2 drivers failed to qualify.

  1. (95)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 189.444 mph.
  2. (26)  Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 188.980 mph.

 

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2015
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