Not since 1997 has Jeff Gordon won fewer than two poles in a NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Never in 16 previous full seasons had he failed to win at least one.
After qualifying in the top spot Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, Gordon extended his record streak to 17 straight years. Gordon, who claimed his first victory at Texas in April, turned a lap at 191.117 mph to edge Kasey Kahne (190.975 mph) for the top starting position in Sunday's Dickies 500.
The pole was the 68th of Gordon's career and his first since the fall race at Texas last year.
It was particularly gratifying to Gordon, who had struggled at the 1.5-mile track before winning earlier this year. It was also at Texas, in 1999, where Gordon suffered one of the hardest impacts of his career during a crash 68 laps into the March 500-miler.
"We've been very close," Gordon said. "There were times when I really thought we had a pole. It's like a win. You hope you get it early and accomplish it and get it out of the way so you don't think and worry about it - it doesn't build - especially when you've done 16 years in a row.
"To finally get it, it doesn't matter to me if it happens the first race or the last race - it just takes a little bit of heat off you to get it early - but the fact that we did get it, and to do it here in Texas, a track that we have struggled at until recently, this is a great place to do it.
"We're focused on ending the season the best we possibly can. We've got three races left and we want poles, we want wins - we want to get a lot of points and get ourselves as high up in the points as we possibly can for the championship and also build something for next year."
Kurt Busch (190.941 mph) qualified third, followed by Tony Stewart (190.624 mph) and Kyle Busch (190.523 mph). Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer will start from positions six through ten, respectively. Chase leader Jimmie Johnson starts twelfth.
Kahne said he was disappointed to fall 0.021 seconds short of Gordon's 28.255-second lap time.
"That was the best lap I think I've ran all year, as far as any qualifying session, and we were right there," Kahne said. "So it is what it is. But it'll be a good spot on Sunday, starting second, being up front and having a good pit stall. I always enjoy coming to Texas, so it should be pretty exciting."
Tony Raines, Dave Blaney, Max Papis and Mike Bliss failed to make the 43-car field.
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News