News & Media

Gordon recovers to snag pole at New Hampshire

September 22, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

No. 24 team looking to make up ground in the Chase after rough start at Chicago

LOUDON, N.H. -- Jeff Gordon took a giant step forward on Friday afternoon, while Denny Hamlin found unexpected trouble during qualifying for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Touring the Magic Mile in 28.232 seconds (134.911 mph), Gordon won the pole for the second Chase for the Sprint Cup race, edging Kyle Busch (134.793 mph) for the top starting spot. The Coors Light Pole Award was Gordon's second of the season and the 72nd of his career, third-most all time.

New Hampshire

2Ky. Busch134.753-.033
3T. Stewart134.568-.072
4B. Vickers134.482-.090
5C. Edwards134.354-.117

* Out Front with Miss Coors Light: Rachel with Jeff

Defending Cup champion Tony Stewart (134.568 mph) qualified third, followed by non-Chase drivers Brian Vickers (134.482 mph) and Carl Edwards (134.354 mph).

Gordon's Chase prospects suffered a major blow last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, when the throttle of his No. 24 Chevrolet stuck and sent him hard into the Turn 1 wall, resulting in a 35th-place finish.

Gordon fell to 12th in the championship standings -- last among eligible drivers -- 47 points behind leader and race winner Brad Keselowski and 21 back of 11th-place Matt Kenseth.

On Friday afternoon, however, Gordon started a rally with his fourth pole in 36 starts at the Magic Mile.

"I think we surprised ourselves a little bit with that pole," Gordon said. "This is something we didn't expect. I think we expected to be strong in the race, but for qualifying, we haven't sat on the pole at a non-restricted track for quite some time, so this was a big one -- and certainly good timing."

In fact, the pole was Gordon's first at a non-restrictor-plate speedway since he qualified first at Charlotte in October 2010.

Hamlin, who is tied for fourth in the standings and 15 points behind Keselowski, predicted victory at New Hampshire after running out of fuel and finishing 16th at Chicagoland. Fastest in Friday's practice session, Hamlin appeared to be arcing toward that goal -- until his qualifying attempt.

Because his team failed to change his tire pressure to the qualifying setup, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota floundered to 32nd in the time trials. Only once in the past 25 races at Loudon has a driver qualified 32nd or worse and come back to win the race (Kurt Busch won from 32nd on the grid in 2004).

"I knew something was wrong," Hamlin said after his run. "We ended up having race pressures, and we didn't put our qualifying pressures in, so that was a tough one. I knew something was really, really wrong, because we were just -- the car was bobbing down real bad -- but simple mistake.

"We'll rebound from it. We're quick enough."

In addition to Gordon, Stewart and Hamlin, other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kasey Kahne, sixth; Martin Truex Jr., ninth; Clint Bowyer, 12th; Greg Biffle, 13th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 14th; Keselowski, 15th; Kevin Harvick, 16th; Jimmie Johnson, 20th; and Matt Kenseth, 25th.


• Jeff Gordon earned is 72nd Cup Series pole -- third most of all-time -- in his 681st start.
• It's Jeff Gordon's second pole of 2012 and fourth all-time at New Hampshire.
• Jeff Gordon's four New Hampshire poles rank second to Ryan Newman (6).
• Jeff Gordon won his eighth Chase pole, second to Newman and Jimmie Johnson (10 apiece).
• Hendrick Motorsports won its seventh pole of 2012, most among all teams.
• Chevrolet won its 10th pole of the year and 16th all-time at New Hampshire.
• Kyle Busch (second) earned his third front-row start at New Hampshire in his 16th start, including both races in 2012.
• Tony Stewart (third) grabbed only his fourth top-five start of 2012 and his second in the last 26 races.
• Brian Vickers (fourth) will have his best start in seven races in 2012, he has finished in the top five in three of his six races this season.
• Carl Edwards (fifth) snagged his fourth top-five start in his 17th race at New Hampshire, he has only one top-15 finish in his three previous races at New Hampshire after starting in the top-five.

Scott Riggs, Jason Leffler and Jeff Green failed to make the 43-car field. Though his car was fast enough to qualify, Josh Wise had his time disallowed because of excessive gas pressure in his shocks.