Gordon wins Homestead pole; Harvick leads Chase qualifiers

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Friday, Nov 14 1581

Jeff Gordon edged Kurt Busch for the top starting spot in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN) as three of the four contenders in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualified in the top nine during Friday's time trials.

In the third and final round of the knockout qualifying session, Gordon covered the 1.5-mile distance at 180.747 mph, narrowly beating Busch (180.632 mph) for the top spot on the grid.

Championship favorite Kevin Harvick (179.946 mph) will start fifth, with fellow contenders Denny Hamlin (179.348 mph) and Joey Logano (179.259 mph) eighth and ninth, respectively. Ryan Newman (178.241 mph), the fourth driver eligible for the championship, failed to advance to the final round and will start 21st.

Matt Kenseth (180.294 mph) and Brad Keselowski (179.994 mph), both eliminated from the Chase last Sunday at Phoenix, qualified third and fourth, respectively, for the Sprint Cup title race.

In the 25-minute first qualifying round, Keselowski set a track record at 181.238 mph, breaking the mark of 181.111 mph established by Jamie McMurray in 2003.

No driver has won a Sprint Cup race at Homestead from the pole since Busch accomplished the feat in 2002.

Gordon, eliminated from the Chase by one point last Sunday, moved toward the top of the track for his pole-winning run.

"The bottom just wasn't the perfect place for us to run," Gordon explained. "I could feel the tires going away, and then we needed to move up. So when we saw some of those guys running fast laps a little bit higher up, I was looking forward to making that last lap.

"The guys made some great adjustments. We unfortunately had a tire going down on the left front, so I don't know if that helped us or hurt us, but it was pretty nice to get that pole. That's awesome."
Gordon's pole -- his first at Homestead, his third of the season and the 77th of his career -- also was the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports.

"To be the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports is really cool," Gordon said. "I think the way we're looking at this weekend is we want to close out the season the absolute best we can. It's been a tremendous season. The No. 24 team has been incredible this year.

"We're disappointed that we aren't in this thing for the championship, but that's not going to stop us from trying to go out to win the pole and win the race."
For Harvick, the most gratifying thing about Friday's qualifying session was beating the three other championship contenders -- not to mention earning a top-five starting position.

"This is going to be a race that you are going to go through some changing conditions," Harvick said. "Today was really about trying to get a solid starting spot. And we were able to do that.

"Just really proud of my guys. We had a really good day today. Just got to keep doing what we have to do and see where it all falls on Sunday.