|Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images|
29.876 seconds at 180.747 mph. The first-place start marks number 200 for Hendrick Motorsports and the 77th for Gordon in 761 career starts. If you do the math, that's a pole about ever 10 starts over his career.
This was Gordon's first pole in 16 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It's small consolation for missing the finals on the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the Eliminator Round last week.
"I think even if we win this race on Sunday, that's only going to make it hurt a little bit more in some ways because we could have won the championship if we were here," said Gordon post-qualifying.
"I think it's not that I'm over it yet, but I've definitely ‑‑ getting to the racetrack, it allows all of us to focus on what we do best, which is go and compete, and when you're fine‑tuning the setup of the car and making laps, especially at this place, right up an inch off the wall every lap, that takes your mind off of it."
Apparently unfazed by the controversy surrounding him, Kurt Busch rattled off a lap of 180.632 mph, good enough for the outside of the front row. Matt Kenseth followed close behind for third, with Brad Keselowski starting fourth. As has been the pattern this season, the second round of qualifying saw the track record fall, this time to Keselowski with his run of 181.238 mph.
Kevin Harvick starts fifth, closest to the front of the final four Chase contenders. Between him and the next Chase contender are Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, then Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano roll off 8th and 9th respectively. Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the final round's top 12.
"Obviously, you want to try to qualify on the pole and do the best that you can," said Harvick, "But it's hard to complain about a top five and being in front of the other three is really the ultimate goal today and tomorrow and the next day. I think if we prepare, we should be competitive."
Starting back in 21st, Ryan Newman has some ground to make up if he's going to snatch the Sprint Cup from the clutches of Harvick, Hamlin and Logano.
Whichever of the four drivers finishes best, whether he wins the race or not, will win the Championship.
The final race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts at 3:00 pm Sunday, aired on ESPN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio. You can see the weekend's TV schedule here.
The full starting order:
|10||Martin Truex, Jr.||30.156||179.069|
|11||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||30.280||178.336|
|22||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||30.344||177.959|