Six Chevrolet SS race cars qualify in top 15 starting spots.
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon led the way for Team Chevy in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway with a sixth-place time of 14.962 (128.245 mph) in his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS.
Three-time Bristol pole sitter Ryan Newman in his No. 31 Quicken Loans Billon Dollar Bracket Challenge Chevrolet SS was ninth fastest in the final session. Kasey Kahne, who earned his first career Bristol victory one year ago placed his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS in the 10th starting spot. He was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate and six-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson in his No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet SS, who ended the session 11th.
Also among the top fifteen in the new qualifying procedure were two other Team Chevy drivers. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS was 13th and current points leader, Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, will start Sunday’s 54th annual Food City 500 from the 14th starting position.
Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was the pole winner, Brad Keselowski (Ford) was second, Matt Kenseth (Ford) was third, Joey Logano (Toyota) was fourth, and Marcos Ambrose (Ford) qualified fifth.
The Food City 500 takes the green flag on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EDT and will be aired live on FOX.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED SIXTH
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN: “It was good to make the top 12. We were fast in practice when we moved over into qualifying runs. We had pretty high expectations and it was a really good first run. The car was a little bit tight so we were just trying to figure out how much to free it up for that second run. We went out there and the car was decent, but just not quite free enough. I got a little bit out of the race track here off of (turn) four. I knew it wasn’t my best lap so we went to try to make another run. At a track like this and this is what we are going to see as we progress through the season is which tracks tires fall off, which ones they don’t and there is a lot of strategy involved with now which is very interesting to me. Because I think a lot of the guys that ran fast the second session were loose the first session and their cars kind of came to them. Where our car was really good maybe a little too tight in the first session and got too tight the second session.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 11TH
HOW WAS QUALIFYING OUT THERE FOR YOU? “We picked up from practice. We were definitely struggling in that opening practice session. We leaned on our teammates and got some speed and made it to the second round. We wished we could have been a little faster there. Still starting 11th isn’t too bad for us here.”
DID YOU LIKE THE NEW TWEAKS THAT THEY MADE WITH THE COOL DOWN UNITS? “It helped the chaos a lot. Still when qualifying starts I think we can address the order in which we roll out and some of that craziness. It still was relatively calm today. I think the biggest deal was having the cool down units and letting cars cool down on pit road instead of out on the race track.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 13TH
ON HIS RUN: “When you’re measuring things by thousands of a second, it’s so tight. And, mistakes we made, we went out too early in that first run. And then this is leaps and bounds ahead of where we’ve been with Phoenix and Vegas with our front splitter control. And then we just came in real low on some of our other items. We ran a .78 in practice and we backed that up with a .95. That’s not what you need to do.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 14TH
WHAT DID YOU FIGHT MOST ON YOUR RUN? “Well, the first run is the one you needed to get it done with and we were just too tight. We wanted to get the car comfortable and had all that Nationwide practice in between and kind of overshot the track a little bit. But the track probably tightened up somewhat as well. We’d like to be in that last 12 going for it and trying to better our position, but we were struggling earlier today so we’ve been picking up a little bit at a time and look forward to tomorrow to be able to get in race trim and improve on the car.
NOT MANY DRIVERS HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO TIE RICHARD PETTY IN ANYTHING. WITH ANOTHER TOP-TWO FINISH ON SUNDAY, WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN TO YOU TO BE IN THAT POSITION? “I’d just like to be able to win here. This is a great race track with a lot of history here. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid and it was my favorite race track to come to when I was little. I just fell in love with it a long time ago. I love racing here and enjoy the racing that we do here. So it would mean a lot to be in the same sentence with Richard Petty in any kind of statistical category or accomplishment would be a great thing.”
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 20TH
A LOT OF DRIVERS WERE SAYING THEY WEREN’T GOING FASTER ON THE SECOND TIME OUT WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE? “I ran I think exactly the same laps I did my first time out my second time. We went out for a third one and was slower. I just got tighter and tighter with my Target Chevy. Just couldn’t roll through the center quite as quick as we needed to. We were six hundredths off from making the final cut. It just shows how competitive these teams are and drivers are that it is so close.”
AUSTIN DILLON, NO. 3 BAD BOY BUGGIES/REALTREE CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 26TH
WHAT WAS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF QUALIFYING TODAY? “Just if somebody got cleared in front of me on our money lap we ran our fast lap was our second lap and the No. 83 pulled up in front of us. That is part of it. We thought we had a big track and he was getting up to speed and I had to pass him off of (turn) two and into (turn) three. Disappointing I feel like we could have been a little further up, but we will just have to learn from it and keep going.”