WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – It’s been a long time since Jeff Gordon has won a road course race at Watkins Glen Int’l, but his odds of doing it again this weekend were vastly improved Saturday afternoon.
Gordon, a four-time Watkins Glen Sprint Cup winner, won the pole for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Gordon’s 68.126-second lap at 129.466 mph was just enough to give him the pole over Australian Marcos Ambrose, who broke the track qualifying record in the first session of knockout qualifying.
“I am so proud of this pole,” said Gordon after his 75th career Sprint Cup pole and third at Watkins Glen. “Qualifying has really been what’s hurting us here at Watkins Glen and I blame myself mainly. I’m so happy today to get three shots at it. The first lap I did OK, but I got held up a little bit coming back to the checkered. The second one was a really good lap and got us into the top 12. Then I just tried to do the same things on the last lap.
“I thought it (his third qualifying lap) was about the same as what I ran before. I didn’t think it was going to be that much better, but wow, what a lap,” Gordon said.
This marks the 22nd consecutive year Gordon has won a pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Ambrose, whose first session qualifying time of 68.113 seconds at 129.491 mph makes him the track record holder, will start second as he attempts to race his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Ambrose is a two-time Sprint Cup race winner at Watkins Glen.
Jimmie Johnson qualified third in his No. 48 Chevrolet SS, followed by Stewart Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. A.J. Allmendinger showed off his road course skills by qualifying sixth for JTG Daugherty Racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh in qualifying ahead of Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman. Joey Logano and Brian Vickers completed the fast 12 in Sprint Cup qualifying. Tony Stewart, a five-time Watkins Glen winner, was the first car not to make the final qualifying session and will start 13th.