by Reid Spencer
If Jeff Gordon needed a change of pace to break the spell of his last disastrous tango with Texas Motor Speedway, he found it Friday afternoon.
Gordon covered the 1.5-mile distance in 28.652 seconds (188.469 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's Dickies 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, a good start toward erasing the memory of a 43rd-place finish at TMS in April.
Gordon, who never has won at Texas, edged Martin Truex Jr. (188.003 mph) for the top spot in the first qualifying session in four weeks, thanks to three straight rainouts of time trials, at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Martinsville and Atlanta.
Clint Bowyer (187.859 mph) will start third, followed by Jamie McMurray (also 187.859 mph) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (187.748 mph). Matt Kenseth, Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson and Scott Riggs will start from positions six through 10, respectively.
"I am so proud of this race team," said Gordon, who won his fourth pole of the season and the 67th of his career. "I think it has been pretty well documented how tough of a weekend we had here in Texas back in April. This team has been working so hard and today was a real sign of that effort.
"Track position is so important at this place. We put a lot of effort and focus on qualifying and it paid off. That green machine is starting on the pole, and we have to go to work tomorrow to get ready for the race.
"I just think that it is so ironic that the last three tracks, Martinsville, Charlotte and Atlanta, all tracks that we felt like we could win the pole at, we didn't get the opportunity because of rain. I thought the last place we could win a pole was here at Texas. Here we are on the pole. Anything is possible."
Gordon hopes a win at Texas is possible, too. Gordon has three races left to score his first 2008 victory, after 14 straight seasons of at least two wins per year.
Of the top eight starters, only Truex and McMurray are not contenders for the championship this year. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: second-place Carl Edwards 16th, Denny Hamlin 17th, Greg Biffle 19th, Kevin Harvick 23rd, Kyle Busch 29th and Jeff Burton 38th.
After two starts in the #96 Hall of Fame Racing Toyota, Joey Logano qualified 43rd in the #02 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, after rain washed out his first two planned attempts in that car. Brad Keselowski will start 37th in his Cup debut in the #25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Tony Raines, Bryan Clauson, Chad McCumbee, Max Papis and Johnny Sauter failed to qualify for the race.