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NASCAR Sprint Cup Michigan: Jeff Gordon takes pole

Jeff Gordon claimed his second consecutive pole position of the season after recording a blistering new track record of 206.558mph at Michigan.
CLICK: Full Sprint Cup qualifying results from Michigan

Hendrick Motorsport's Jeff Gordon will start Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race from pole position, after setting a new track qualifying record lap of 34.857s (206.558mph).

"You don't go around this place like that, that fast without a really good race car," said Gordon after beating the previous record of 35.198s (204.557mph) set in June by Kevin Harvick. "I knew that we were really strong here the last time we were here and what our team is doing right now it's just phenomenal how they continue to improve race cars and just the whole effort.

"I'm so excited about the way our race team is performing right now," he added. "I'm just so proud of them.

"Our first qualifying effort today, and practice, was not good," he pointed out. "I've been hearing a lot about tyre chatter and we had it big-time. The next run out we made some adjustments and it was better.

"That whole qualifying session, from the first one, second one, and third session, the car was just near perfect," he continued. "The first one I just didn't drive it hard enough. The second time I finally did and we made a little slight adjustment there.

"This is exciting. To be running this good and have cars that are this great; back-to-back poles from Watkins Glen to Michigan, we're having a lot of fun right now!"

Gordon's time was just three hundredths of a second faster than Joey Logano who had earlier topped the sole Friday practice session at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway. It gives the four-time Cup champion his second pole position of the season after he had also clinched the top spot in last week's qualifying at Watkins Glen International road course.

Gordon's lap was the seventh-fastest pole winning speed in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history and is the 17th new track qualifying record set during the 2014 season. Gordon has now chalked up 76 pole positions in a career spanning 748 races, placing him third on the all-time pole winners list.

Meanwhile Logano was left once again the best of the rest rather than sitting on pole: "Close but didn't quite make it - once again," he sighed. "That is our seventh front row start this year, which we are very proud of don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of effort to do that. But we only have one pole. That is frustrating.

"We are making all the sessions besides the superspeedways and we are proud to have done that this deep in the season," he added. "I have a good car in race trim too. I feel like I have something similar to what I had in this race last year that we won the pole and race with. We are going to come up a little short on the pole but hopefully we can do it in the race."

Behind Gordon and Logano, row two will comprise Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers, while Logano's Penske team mate Brad Keselowski will start from fifth place alongside Kevin Harvick. Richard Childress Racing team mates Paul Menard and Austin Dillon lock out the fourth row just ahead of Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

"I feel good about it," said Menard. "We unloaded with some speed we did one race run and felt confident that we are in the ballpark and switch over to qualifying trim and just did a few runs in practice. Our first qualifying run in the session I just way overdrove my entry and just got really tight. We freed the car up quite a bit and go better from there."

"Very pleased with our starting position," added Dillon. "The first few laps we were on top of the board for a little bit there and then people came out on their second run on tyres and were able to pick up speed and we just went straight to qualifying trim.

"The car was good," he went on. "We ran the same lap time all three sessions. Ran four laps I think and they were all within four or five one hundredths. It's pretty cool to be that solid. To get to that next little bit you just have to keep developing everything. It's cool to see all of RCR's cars in the top 12 today, that was really big for us."

Greg Biffle lines up alongside the third member of the RCR squad Ryan Newman to complete the top 12 who made it into the final pole shootout round of qualifying. Just missing out on progressing were Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick, while Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch will start Sunday afternoon's race from 15th and 16th respectively. It was a disappointing day for the Joe Gibbs Racing team with Matt Kenseth having to settle for 18th, Denny Hamlin 21st and Kyle Busch 24th on the grid.

Despite Gordon's success in clinching pole, there was frustration for two of his Hendrick team mates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson who both failed to progress from the first round of qualifying and who will start from 25th and 30th place when the green flag comes out on Sunday.

"We were a little loose on that second run," Earnhardt admitted. "We made a good lap on the first run and expected to go out there and pick-up two or three tenths and the back end was just moving around a lot and real loose and I guess just couldn't get into the throttle like we needed to. But I'm real happy with the car in race trim."

"We've just had a vibration with our car," explained Johnson who was clearly significantly less happy with things at the end of Fridays' track time. "Really a shake, a violent shake through the corner. And we've been trying to get to the bottom of it. We made it better, and it certainly went faster, but just not enough. We'll go back to the drawing board and dig-in deeper and see what's going on."

Jeff Burton took 27th place in qualifying, after being called up at short notice on Thursday to substitute for Tony Stewart in the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, following Stewart's involvement in the fatal sprint car dirt track accident that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr. last weekend.

"It's hard for everybody but at the same time you still want to qualify well. I just didn't do a very good job of adjusting to the rhythm of everything," Burton said.

It's only Burton's third race of the year following two starts with Michael Waltrip Racing at Las Vegas and New Hampshire, after he retired from full-time Cup competition at the end of the 2013 season.

"Coming here is a really hard place to come after being out of the car for a while and the rhythm of a Q-lap," he admitted. "Every time I got better, but then the last time I wanted to try to get some more and drove in too hard into 1 and got the front tyres shaking and vibrating and didn't get through 1 and 2 very well.

"Anyway, I think that's more me than it is the team," he added. "I think tomorrow will be a whole other ball game where we can run and I can get a rhythm and I can give them a lot better information ... I think I've just got to get my head straight and right where I want to."

Matt Crafton qualified in 39th place standing in for Martin Truex Jr., while Ryan Blaney qualified the Wood Brothers #21 Ford in 28th in place of Trevor Bayne who is competing in the Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend.

See full Sprint Cup qualifying results from Michigan International Speedway



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