NASCAR: Gordon sets record in pole run at Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI - With a lighting-fast track record at Michigan International Speedway, Jeff Gordon claimed his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of the season on Friday afternoon after turning a lap of 206.558 mph in qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.
Gordon, 42, crushed Kevin Harvick's track record by three-tenths of a second at the two-mile oval set just two months ago. Gordon's qualifying lap was the seventh-fastest pole-winning speed in Sprint Cup history.
Gordon knocked Joey Logano from the top spot in the final two minutes of the third and final round of qualifying, establishing the 17th track record of the season. Gordon also took the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
"I don't know how to make it much better than that," said Gordon, who won his 76th career pole in 748 races. "This entire Axalta Chevrolet crew just did a phenomenal job. Our first qualifying effort today, and practice, was not good. I've been hearing a lot about tire chatter and we had it big time.
"The next run out we made some adjustments and it was better. That whole qualifying session, from the first one, second one, and the third session, the car was just near perfect. This is our Brickyard 400 car, so it's a fast one. And let's hope we can keep it going fast all day on Sunday."
Logano will start on the front row for the seventh time this season, but six of them have been from the outside pole. He is optimistic about his chances on Sunday.
"Close, but didn't quite make it," Logano said. "This is our seventh front row start this year, which we are very proud of -- don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of effort to do that, but we only have one pole. That is frustrating.
"I have a really fast Shell Pennzoil Ford this weekend and we have been able to keep showing (Team) Penske is very strong in qualifying. I have a good car in race trim too. I have something similar to what I had in this race last year that we won the pole and race with. Hopefully, we can do it in the race."
Third-place qualifier Carl Edwards celebrated his 35th birthday at the track and led the Roush Fenway Racing camp with his best start since a fourth at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June.
Behind the top-three starters, Brian Vickers qualified fourth and Rochester Hills, Mich., native Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
Kevin Harvick wound up sixth, followed by Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman.
Danica Patrick narrowly missed the cut into the final round of knockout qualifying, but will line up 14th.
While Gordon won his sixth career pole at Michigan International Speedway, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates struggled in time trials.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the points leader entering Sunday's race, could only manage the 25th quickest lap Friday. Six-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 30th and Kasey Kahne qualified 15th.
"We were a little loose on that second run," said Earnhardt, a three-time winner this season. "We made a good lap on the first run and expected to go out there and pick up two or three tenths and the back end was just moving around a lot and real loose and I guess just couldn't get into the throttle like we needed to. But I'm real happy with the car in race trim."
By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service