In the final push for the Chase for the Cup, Jeff Gordon won his first pole of the year and 73rd of his career, with a track record 130.599 mph for the lead slot at Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Speedway.
Sitting 11th in points, six behind Kurt Busch, Gordon is one of 10 drivers fighting for a spot in the final race before the Chase begins next week in Chicago. The four-time champion needs to surpass Busch in points, or win at Richmond in order to make NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
Busch will start behind Gordon in the second row after a 130.334 mph lap, followed by defending champion with an outside chance of qualifying Brad Keselowski in third, and Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth after. The last pair are No. 2 and No. 6 in points and have essentially wrapped up a spot in the Chase.
The wild card spots should come down to Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman. Kahne should be safe with two victories and his 12th place in the standings. Truex Jr. and Newman each have one victory, with the Michael Waltrip Racing driver holding a five point lead in the standings.
Newman slipped in qualifying all the way back to the 24th row, while Truex Jr. starts from the 11th row.
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Weather conditions should be ideal for all the Chase hopefuls, with a temperatures hovering in the mid-70s to high 60s with completely clear skies over Richmond.
The race begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by ABC
11.Martin Truex Jr.
12.Juan Pablo Montoya
14.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
21.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.