Joe Jennings, NASCAR correspondent
In qualifications for the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway, Jeff Gordon was the top dog with a speed of 191.623 miles per hour, claiming the pole position for Sunday’s nationally televised race, the 10th round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
In taking his 71st career pole and third at Talladega, Gordon has registered at least one pole for the 20th consecutive season, tying David Pearson in that category. His first pole came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1993.
As usual, Gordon drove the DuPont Chevrolet.
“Sitting on pole at Talladega doesn’t guarantee anything for the race and track position is at least as important at this track as any other, although with cooling (of car) being at a premium, starting the race with fresh air is a positive,” the pole winner said. “The biggest positive is that we have had a rough start to the season and not a lot has gone our way, even though we have had fast race cars. Right now, we will take any kind of positive boost that we can possibly have. To see results the way we did today is a great thing.”
A.J. Allmendinger, who held the provisional pole for an extended period, ended up second fastest in the Shell Pennzoil/AAA Dodge. His speed was 191.111 mph.
“This is a day that is more about the engine shop and the race team getting the car ready,” Allmendinger said. “My Penske Dodge team worked hard to have a little bit more motor from Daytona and obviously, it showed. I would have loved to get the pole for the guys but from where we were at Daytona in qualifying to where we are now, they have made a lot of progress. I am excited for the guys and for tomorrow.”
Marcos Ambrose pushed his Stanley Ford into the third starting position with a speed of 191.039 mph.
Said the Australian about his fast run, “As a driver, all you can do here is mess up. You can’t make any speed; you can just lose it. For us, there are three races going on. You want to beat your teammate, which we did by a whisker; and you want to be the first Ford home, and we did that. And you want to get the pole, but we didn’t quite get that job done. I am proud of our whole team, and it is good to run this good here. There’s a lot of good stuff going on at the workshop, to getting the cars dialed in and getting speed out of them. We are focusing on the plate races, and it is paying off.”
Aric Almirola, who had the fastest car in the two practice sessions, qualified fourth at 190.981 mph in the VeriFone Sail Ford. He’s a teammate to Ambrose.
Row three qualifiers were Kasey Kahne (Chevrolet) at 190.772 mph and Sprint Cup point leader Greg Biffle (Ford) at 190.586 mph.
Earning the fourth row starting spots were Carl Edwards (Ford) and Tony Stewart (Chevrolet).
Michael Waltrip, who will be making his 767th Sprint Cup start, qualified ninth with Matt Kenseth taking the 10th spot.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 18th and teammate Jimmie Johnson was right behind him in the 19th spot.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch timed 20th and 21st, respectively.
Trevor Bayne, who qualified 11th, was the fastest of the nine drivers who had to qualify on time.
J. J. Yeley failed to make the starting field.
Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 will be telecast live by FOX at 1 p.m. ET.