HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jeff Gordon won’t win his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this season, but that won’t stop him from trying to win Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The four-time series champion earned his third pole of the season Sunday at the 1.5-mile oval, the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports and team owner Rick Hendrick. Gordon’s lap of 29.876 seconds at 180.747 mph was enough to give him the top spot over Kurt Busch.
“I’m really excited about that pole in our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet,” Gordon said. “Two hundred (poles) for Hendrick Motorsports is really cool. I think the way we are looking at this weekend is we want to finish this season off the absolute best we possibly can. It has been a tremendous season for us. This 24 team has been incredible this year. We are disappointed we’re not in this thing for the championship, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to go out and win the pole and win the race.”
Matt Kenseth qualified third for Joe Gibbs Racing, followed by Brad Keselowski. Keselowski reset the track record during the opening round of qualifying, topping the charts with a 29.795-second lap at 181.238 mph.
Kevin Harvick was the fastest of the four championship contenders, earning the fifth starting position. He said that his teams focus will now be on making the car more drivable for Sunday’s finale.
“This is going to be a race where you go through some changing conditions,” said Harvick. “Today was really just about trying to get a solid starting spot and we were able to do that with our Budweiser team.”
Clint Bowyer was sixth, followed by Kyle Busch. Two more championship contenders are next in the starting order, with Denny Hamlin qualifying eighth and Joey Logano ninth.
“It has been a great day so far and I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. The car is feeling really good. We’ll see what we’ve got,” said Hamlin, who is the defending winner of Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead.
Logano was happy with his qualifying effort after struggling earlier in the day during practice.
“It is a good recovery from where we were in practice,” Logano said. “(We were) pretty far down the board in practice. The guys did a good job, they did an awesome job recovering from that. Just lost a little bit of speed as qualifying went.”
Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson completed the top 12 qualifiers.
Ryan Newman was the only championship contender who failed to qualify for the final round of qualifying, ending the second round of qualifying in the 21st position.
“A buddy of mine once said it’s not where you start, it’s where you stop,” Newman said after qualifying. “We’ve got half of them beat to start and we’ll keep digging with the Caterpillar Chevrolet.”