Jeff Gordon, who missed racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title by a single point, won the pole for Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The pole was the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports and 77th of Gordon’s career, a total that trails only Richard Petty and David Pearson.
Gordon had a lap of 180.747 miles per hour to claim the No. 1 starting spot over Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. Championship favorite Kevin Harvick qualified fifth, while title rivals Denny Hamlin (eighth) and Joey Logano (ninth) were close by.
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But the night belonged to Gordon, who despite two second-place finishes in the prior three races, failed to be one of the four drivers to qualify for the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I’m really excited about the pole. I don’t know that I’ve ever been on the pole here and to get the 200th for Hendrick is cool," said Gordon. "Yeah, I’m just blown away right now.
"To me this has been one of the toughest places for qualifying for me over the years, and that’s why we’ve never sat on a pole. … I knew we had a pretty good race car when we ended practice today because we made a qualifying run, and it was pretty decent during the day like that. Backed that up during qualifying."
Still, Gordon said it pained him not to be racing for the championship.
"I think even if we win this race on Sunday, that’s only going to make it hurt a little bit more in some ways because we could have won the championship if we were here," said Gordon. "I think it’s not that I’m over it yet, but I’ve definitely — getting to the racetrack, it allows all of us to focus on what we do best, which is go and compete, and when you’re fine-tuning the setup of the car and making laps, especially at this place, right up an inch off the wall every lap, that takes your mind off of it."
Harvick, the championship favorite, said he was happy with how his run went.
"It’s all about adjustability," said Harvick. "This is going to be a race where you’re going through some changing conditions."
Ryan Newman was the only one of the four title contenders who didn’t get out of the second round, ending the session in 21st place.
"Just a little bit tight getting in … struggled a little bit there," said Newman, adding what mattered most was where he finishes on Sunday, not where he starts. The starting position will be Newman’s worst since the second Pocono race.
Failing to advance out of the first of three rounds were Kyle Larson (27th), Tony Stewart (28th) and Danica Patrick (32nd).
VIDEO: Jeff Gordon talks about being eliminated from the Chase despite finishing second at Phoenix