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Earnhardt pole ends 60-race dry spell

“As good as our car was today, to be able to start up front; those are all great positives," he agreed. "We never go out there focused on one other individual. We go out there focused on our job, and what we have to do to win the race. That is what we plan on doing."

But the reality was that at the end of the day, his Chase hopes really did come down to beating one man in particular.

"It's really Kyle's to lose," Gordon admitted. "We know that Kyle is going to be strong in this race. But, we're going to try to keep the pressure on him and the other guys that we are battling with out there."

"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain," he continued, adding: "I'm just thankful we've performed as well as we have the last couple weeks to give ourselves a shot."

As for how his qualifying lap had gone, he said: "I got three and four great coming to the green and coming back to the white. I just didn't quite get through one and two the way I would have liked to. I actually got down to the yellow line a little bit earlier than I wanted to. I could have carried a little bit more speed in there - there is some speed left out there, but still a solid day."

Regan Smith and Clint Bowyer will line up on the second row of the grid for the start of the race, with Smith saying that he was "real happy" with the first of his two timed laps.

"I didn't quite get what I wanted that second lap, but the first lap was enough - we are proud of that," he said, giving the credit to his mechanics and his crew chief. "These guys have been working really hard. The guys in the shop have been working really hard. Todd Barrier came on board a few weeks back with us and that has been a good change, a lot of excitement out of this team."

On the third row of the grid will be another Hendrick Motorsports driver, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who will take his place alongside the veteran wizard of the wheel Mark Martin.

"Things feel good so we will get this Lowe's Chevy dusted off and ready to go for tomorrow night," said Johnson after setting his time of 21.295s (126.790mph) just 0.039s off his team mate's pole effort.

Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano clinched the fourth row, with Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top ten.

"I could have done a little bit better job with the lap but all in all in I was proud of how it went," said Keselowski, who denied that he'd had a scare in turn 2 that had nearly put him into the fence. "Nah, I was just trying real hard. That's my job!" he said.




Related Pictures

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives the #88 Dale Jr. Foundation/National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet through the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew chief Steve Letarte in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, Mich. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, stands by his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) and John Godwin of Duck Commander (R) look on at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

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