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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)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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