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May 5th, 2012
Jeff Gordon claimed his 71st career pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega.
Taking an unusual approach to his qualifying run, Gordon was able to beat the session’s long-standing benchmark set earlier by Penske’s AJ Allmendinger, with a second flying lap of 49.973 seconds, at an average speed of 191.623mph, and was the only driver to break under the 50-second mark.
While drivers usually run the first of two laps on a high line to gain maximum speed and momentum for the second one, which they run on the inside, Gordon took the shortest line on both of them, and was already fourth fastest with his first one.
Gordon’s pole means he continues a streak of setting at least one pole position every season for the past 20 years, matching a record set by NASCAR legend David Pearson.
“We need something to boost our morale and some positives because we’ve had a rough year so far,” said Gordon, who ranks 17th in the drivers’ standings after nine races.
“We just wanted to try something different in qualifying. We tried it yesterday on the one run that we made. This is a different monster than Daytona and you’ve got to treat it a little bit different. I just felt we could get up to speed and you don’t need to run that high line that takes more time. But I did not expect that good a lap.”
Allmendinger’s front row starting position is his third consecutive top four result in qualifying for Penske Racing, as he beat the Richard Petty Motorsports Fords of Australian Marcos Ambrose and his team-mate Aric Almirola, who had set the pace in practice in both of Friday’s practice sessions.
Hendrick’s Kasey Kahne was fifth fastest ahead of points leader Greg Biffle, the best of the Roush Fenway Fords that dominated earlier this year at Daytona, the only other restrictor-plate venue.
Biffle’s team-mate Edwards was seventh fastest and will share the fourth row of the grid with reigning champion Tony Stewart, while Michael Waltrip had a solid return behind the wheel of his #55 MWR Toyota with the ninth quickest lap, ahead of the third Roush car of Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth.
Trevor Bayne was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 11th, ahead of Earnhardt Ganassi’s Juan Pablo Montoya.
Last year’s spring Talladega race winner Jimmie Johnson will see the green flag wave from row 10, beside his Hendrick team-mate Dale Earnhardt Jr, who pushed him to victory a year ago.
JJ Yeley was the only non-qualifier.