HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Robert Laberge/Getty Images North America photo —
One week after being eliminated from championship contention, Jeff Gordon found a reason to smile at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Gordon wheeled his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet to Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position, and the 77th career pole of his storied career, during the final round of knockout qualifying Friday night for the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Gordon’s quick lap of 180.747 mph puts him ahead of fellow Hendrick engine driver Kurt Busch and in prime position for his fifth win of the 2014 season.
“I’m just blown away right now,” Gordon said after his history-making run. “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 think having the three rounds of qualifying actually helped me a lot, and the team did an excellent job with the tuning to get it ready for that last round. 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. We backed that up during qualifying.”
“The team made a good adjustment (after the first two rounds) and we saw some guys moving up the racetrack, and I just committed to the top, and it really stuck well, and it’s great to be on the pole.”
Busch’s lap (180.632 mph) held up for second overall, putting him on the front row for Sunday’s Sprint Cup finale event.
Matt Kenseth (180.294 mph) and Brad Keselowski (179.994 mph), whose teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, respectively, are still in championship contention, qualified third and fourth for Sunday’s event.
Kevin Harvick was best among the Chase-eligible four, qualifying fifth with a speed of 179.946 mph. He was followed by Toyota drivers Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch in sixth and seventh.
Chase drivers Denny Hamlin (179.348 mph) and Joey Logano (179.259 mph) will start eighth and ninth behind Harvick.
Ryan Newman was the only Chase driver to fail to advance to the final round of qualifying, and he will be the only Chaser to start outside the top 20, qualifying 21st after just being able to post a best speed of 178.241 mph. He finished 17th in last year’s race after starting 15th.
Two Sprint Cup practices are on tap for Saturday, scheduled to roll off at noon ET (FS1) and 3 p.m. ET (FS2). Be sure to tune in to Sunday’s season finale at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN to find out who will be crowned Sprint Cup Series champion.