Jeff Gordon won his first pole of the season Thursday night, besting the Fords driven by Carl Edwards and A.J. Allmendinger with a lap of 191.544 mph around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. His No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet will lead the field to the green flag for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 -- the fifth race in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship run.
Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin (fourth), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (eighth) and four-time defending series champ Jimmie Johnson (10th) will join him near the front of the grid. It is Gordon's eighth pole at this track but his first there in 10 years. It is his 69th career pole position, tying him with Cale Yarborough for third best all-time.
Gordon, Edwards and current points leader Johnson are the only Chase contenders among the top-14 qualifiers. Last week's winner, Tony Stewart, will start 29th, well off his top-six run in opening practice.
"This was huge and a huge shock,'' Gordon said smiling. "We just haven't been qualifying well lately. We used to be the kings of qualifying at Charlotte, but with the competition changing and different cars, we kinda lost our way here. I'm shocked we're here on the pole. But it's awesome timing here in the Chase. It's a small momentum and confidence booster for us.''