In a return to single-car qualifying, Jeff Gordon put up a lap of 49.160 seconds at 194.793 miles per hour to beat the competition and earn his 80th career pole Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.
The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was 0.281 seconds faster than teammate Kasey Kahne, who will start second in Sunday’s Geico 500. All of the Hendrick cars showed speed in the session, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. posting the fourth-fastest lap and Jimmie Johnson putting up the fifth-fastest time.
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Gordon knew he had a fast car, but gave all of the credit to his team.
"For this team to bring another car, a different car here, and all the hard work from the engine shop and what they do with the bodies, and chassis and prep," Gordon said. "A lot of hard work goes into this and (crew chief) Alan Gustafson takes a lot of pride in these. They should, this is awesome. And awesome for Hendrick Motorsports to be on the front row. This was all them. I played a small role at Daytona, but I played NO role today, but it was fun."
Ryan Blaney’s solid qualifying effort broke up the Hendrick Motorsports dominance at the top of the speed charts.
Tony Stewart, Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and Sam Hornish Jr. rounded out the top 12 in the final round.
The session was a departure from the usual group qualifying, with drivers taking a single timed lap and cars being released in intervals.
Between rounds, teams had a 10-minute break and were only allowed to cool down the engines for eight of those 10 minutes.
During the opening round of qualifying, Gordon surprised many when he put the No. 24 Chevrolet atop the speed charts with a lap of 49.171 seconds at 194.749 mph, 0.325 seconds better than Menard in second place.
Kyle Larson was the first driver to miss out on advancing to Round 2, and will start Sunday’s race from the 13th spot. Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 20.
Michael McDowell and Jeb Burton failed to qualify for Sunday’s race.