NASCAR: Gordon gets 66th pole
By Dan Gelston
DOVER, Del. ó Jeff Gordon is looking for small victories.
Winning the pole at Dover International Speedway was a nice one to get.
The four-time Cup champion took the top spot with a lap of 157.061 mph Friday, a sorely needed lift as he tries to snap his season-long winless drought and make a big move up the Chase for the championship standings.
Gordon is 11th in the points race behind co-leaders Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.
“We’re certainly not out of the championship, we understand that,” Gordon said. “It’s too early to ever count yourself out of that. We’re too good of a team to every count ourselves out. We would never do that mentally.”
Seven Chase drivers will start in the top 11 of Sunday’s race. Denny Hamlin starts third, Greg Biffle fifth, Clint Bowyer sixth, Matt Kenseth eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10th, and Kyle Busch is 11th.
“There’s no doubt he’s as good as Jimmie Johnson is,” Hamlin said. “Why isn’t he winning races? I don’t know.”
Gordon isn’t terribly sure, either. He has nine top-five finishes but hasn’t been able to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet into Victory Lane. He was 14th last week in the first race in the Chase and hasn’t won a race since last October. Gordon does have four career wins at Dover on the mile concrete track, but none since 2001.
“We’re still looking for that win and any positives we can pull out of this season and get ourselves back into the Chase is a great way to do it,” Gordon said.
Mark Martin turned a lap of 157.054 and starts second. He also expected Gordon to get rolling over the final two months and said it was foolish for anyone to count out the Hendrick Motorsports star.
“Some people weren’t around when he came into this thing,” Martin said. “He was the most incredibly talented driver that a lot of us had seen. And he still is that same guy and same incredibly talented race car driver who has potential to get on a roll and be a Chase contender for sure.”
Chase drivers took the 20th-22nd slots, with Johnson, Jeff Burton and Edwards all starting in the middle of the pack. Kevin Harvick is 24th and Tony Stewart ó who lost a lap last week and rebounded to finish eighth ó has the worst start of the Chase drivers at 33rd.
“I thought I’d be faster,” Edwards said. “That’s the way it goes. I just thought it would be a little faster.”
Of course, Gordon said he’s tremendously committed to winning a chase and catching the leaders. Gordon thinks he can parlay the pole into a victory and prove that he still has what it takes to win another title.
“I feel like we always have that in us,” Gordon said. “But when you haven’t seen a real glimmer of that up to this point, then it’s about doing it just one week at a time and not trying to think too big.”