Jeff Gordon surprised himself when he accelerated to the pole position for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In claiming his 72nd pole position in 681 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Gordon flashed around the mile track at a speed of 134.911 miles per hour.
Coming off a miserable finish at the Chicagoland Speedway a week ago, Gordon’s Driver to End Hunger Chevrolet team (Hendrick Motorsports) let it be known they weren’t giving up in the run for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In the Chase standings, Gordon resides in 12th place, trailing leader Brad Keselowski by 47 markers.
We haven’t been on the pole for a non-restrictor plate track in a long time.
That was a great lap,” Gordon said with a smile on his face. “Our day started out to be a tough one in race trim when we were trying things that weren’t working for us. When we switched over to qualifying trim, we immediately went to second on the board, but we were still quite a bit behind the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). I wasn’t sure what to expect but hoped we could back that up, but then you see Kyle (Busch) put up a solid lap, but our car did everything we asked it to do in that run.
“The first lap was a warm-up lap to see what it would do and the second lap the car stuck and I got through all the corners well, getting on the rev chip, but it rotated well for me. I said on the radio that I thought it was pretty good (lap) but didn’t know if it was good enough. And we surprised ourselves a little bit with this pole. We haven’t been on the pole for a non-restrictor plate track in a long time.”
Busch forged to the second quickest time with a speed of 134.753 mph in the M&M’s Toyota.
Said the intense driver, “Everything was good, but the pole didn’t come our way the way we wanted it to. We made changes from practice to qualifying, and I was shocked with my time but the No. 24 beat us at the end. I felt the car had decent balance, but we just needed more grip to make speed. Still, it’s good for track position to be able to start up front on Sunday.”
Tony Stewart motored to the third starting position in the Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, attaining a speed of 134.568 mph.
Said the reigning Sprint Cup champion, “It was definitely a good lap for us. We had a good practice this afternoon, and it was good to back that up for qualifying. It is a perfect way to start off the weekend and it is a nice length of a race -- not 500 laps, which it doesn’t need to be. The hard thing is it is hard to pass here, and hopefully we can keep our track position and not have to beat our car up getting to the front.”
Brian Vickers poked the Michael Waltrip racing Freightliner/Jet Edge Toyota to the outside of the second row with a run of 134.482 mph.
Row three qualifiers were Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne with Paul Menard and Ryan Newman grabbing the fourth row spots.
Martin Truex Jr. and Dave Blaney rounding out the top-10 qualifiers. Blaney is behind the wheel of the Shell Pennzoil Dodge and filling in for Sam Hornish Jr., who was in Kentucky preparing for Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
Hamlin had the fastest practice time and was the last car to qualify but faulty tire pressure derailed his effort. “I knew something was wrong,” he said. “It looked like we just ended up with our race pressures and didn’t put out qualifying pressures in, so that was a tough one. “We’ll rebound from it; we quick enough.”
Failing to qualify were Scott Riggs, Jason Leffler, Jeff Green and Josh Wise.
Story by: Joe Jennings, NASCAR Correspondent