Jeff Gordon won his 64th career pole position with a lap at 185.251 mph (29.927 seconds) during Friday’s Georgia Power Qualifying Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“This is a tough place to sit on pole,” said Gordon, who picked up just his second pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Friday’s fast lap. “It’s tough to get around here quick; it’s a fast race track.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second (184.862 mph, 29.990 seconds), and Martin Truex Jr. will start third (183.807 mph, 30.162 seconds) in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500.
Gordon’s lap was nowhere near the track record for the fastest track in NASCAR, a lightning-fast 197.438 mph set by Geoffrey Bodine back in 1997. But that was no surprise to anyone at the speedway on Friday, watching the competitors work with a rock-hard tire that was designed to slow tire wear.
“They changed the tire and it’s really slick, and we’re going around the corner pretty slow,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I think it will be funner for drivers to race like that without the grip … It’s a fun track; drivers love it. Everybody always says how great it is, and it is. It’s a great race track.”
Gordon said he wouldn’t be sure what to expect for Sunday’s race until after Saturday’s final practice, but he conceded that it could be a wild one.
“If it’s that much of a handful on brand new tires it’s going to be a real handful on Sunday,” Gordon said.
After topping the speed charts during Friday’s practice, Earnhardt thought he might have a shot at the pole position, but one misstep as he headed into the lap dashed those hopes.
“We were good off the trailer; the car was fast in practice, obviously,” said Earnhardt. “We tried to have good solid lap, but we had a bobble coming to the green … I think I lost it coming to the green, honestly. Overall I’m pretty thrilled though.”
Dawsonville’s Bill Elliott failed to qualify, as did Burney Lamar, John Andretti, Ken Schrader and Johnny Benson.