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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)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (L), driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, talks to Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ENEOS Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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