Jeff Gordon set a new track qualifying record at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Friday with a lap time of 20.674 seconds to claim the pole for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track. It’s his 73rd-career pole and extended his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one pole to 21. That streak breaks a record he previously shared with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson.
“Obviously, that was big; it was really big,” Gordon said. “Of course, to address the record with Pearson. It is not very often you get to break a record that David Pearson set. So that is really incredible. I’m pretty overwhelmed and blown away by that record, in itself, and to be able to accomplish that. I didn’t think it was going to happen this year. We just have not been qualifying well.”
Kurt Busch qualified second to join Gordon on the front row come Saturday. It’s his eighth front row starting spot this year.
“It’s cool that we are on the front row and hanging out up front with Gordon,” Busch said. “The way that it shakes out, it’s just a front row starting spot, which is great for our crew guys. We will have a good pit box selection.”
Brad Keselowski qualified third. Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth qualified fourth and fifth. The top-three starters are all among the 10 drivers vying for the final spots remaining in the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup that will kick off following the Richmond Race. Both Bowyer and Kenseth have already clinched their Chase berths.
Qualifying sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Regan Smith. Smith filled in for Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel of the No. 48 on Friday, as Johnson spent the day in Charlotte following the birth of his second daughter early Friday morning. Johnson is expected to arrive at the track on Saturday and race the car. Despite qualifying 10th, Johnson’s No. 48 will have to start in the back because another driver qualified the car.
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts for the 43 available spots on the starting grid. The one driver failing to make the race was Mike Bliss.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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