From Talladega Superspeedway release:
(TALLADEGA, AL) - Jeff Gordon is not leaving Talladega Superspeedway quietly. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who is retiring as a full-time driver after this season, will start from the pole in Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 in his final appearance on the 2.66-mile trioval.
Gordon turned a fast lap of 194.500 mph during Saturday’s Foodland/Food Giant qualifying to capture the pole position for Sunday’s much anticipated race, which is set to start at 1:30 p.m. CDT. It is the fifth career pole at Talladega Superspeedway for Gordon, who also has six victories at the track, tying Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second in the all-time record book.
“This is a great way to get it started,” Gordon said. “There are times where I’ve enjoyed restrictor plate racing more than any other race I’ve ever been a part of. When things go right, it can’t be more fun than this.”
Gordon will be joined on the front row by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. Jimmie Johnson – another Hendrick driver – qualified third, followed by Matt Kenseth in fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in May, will roll off in fifth place, giving Hendrick Motorsports four of the top five starting spots.
In addition to the regular excitement of high-speed racing at NASCAR’s biggest track, there is also the drama of a spot in the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship being on the line. The CampingWorld.com 500 is a cutoff race in the Chase and four of the 12 drivers still eligible to win the championship will be eliminated from contention on Sunday cutting the field down to eight.
With so much at stake, there have been plenty of strategy sessions among the teams about the best way to approach this 188-lap race. However, once the green flag waves, those plans often fly out the window at 200 mph.
“Mike Tyson used to say that everybody has a plan until they get in the ring,” said defending race champion Brad Keselowski. “Well, Talladega is the same way. Everybody has a plan here, or an approach, until they drop the green flag. And then it usually doesn’t work.”
The only driver who is guaranteed to advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is Joey Logano, who secured his spot with victories each of the past two weeks at Charlotte and Kansas.
That leaves seven remaining spots being pursued by 11 drivers, including Gordon, Earnhardt, Jr. and Keselowski. Other drivers still in contention are Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.
“At Talladega, it’s all about being in the right place and being positioned properly,” said Kenseth, who likely needs to win Sunday in order to advance to the next round. “Certainly with this being a race in the Chase, everybody’s kind of on a different agenda. There are all kinds of different scenarios. So we just have to go race as hard as we can and hope for the best.”