Gordon Leads Hendrick Sweep of Top Four Spots in Qualifying for Aaron’s 499
Jeff Gordon will be sitting on the pole for Sunday’s running of the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. And in a race where it is crucial to hook up with a trusted drafting partner, Gordon will start with Hendrick Motorsports teammates all around him.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers captured the top four spots during qualifying on Saturday, led by Gordon’s fast lap of 178.248 mph. Jimmie Johnson qualified second, Mark Martin third and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth. It is only the third time in NASCAR history that a single team has taken the top four spots in qualifying.
“This is as good as we could possibly ask for,” Gordon said. “If we could write the script, we couldn’t have written it any better.
“I had no idea what to expect and neither did the team. But we certainly didn’t expect to go out and qualify 1, 2, 3, 4 like that. It feels great. I’m not sure where that came from, except for great note-sharing among the teams and hard work.”
Paul Menard was the top non-Hendrick driver, qualifying fifth. Rounding out the top 10 are Landon Cassill in sixth, David Ragan seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Brian Vickers ninth and Clint Bowyer 10th.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne qualified 11th, and Michael Waltrip will start 12th in a car honoring Auburn’s 2010 national championship football team.
Gordon’s pole is the 70th of his career, moving him past Cale Yarbrough into third place all-time in NASCAR history. But it was the dominance of the entire Hendrick organization that most impressed Gordon and his teammates.
“It’s an incredible engineering feat to be able to put the speed together with every single component – horsepower, aero, chassis, the whole thing,” Martin said. “It’s a huge feat by an organization to be able to pull that off.”
Johnson was the last of the four Hendrick drivers to qualify. He said there definitely was some pressure on his No. 48 team after he watched his teammates grab the top three spots.
“It was tough for my engine tuner to sit and watch,” Johnson said. “As soon as we came off the track he said he was going to go pass out because he had been so stressed out. He said the weight of the world was on his shoulder to get that fourth Hendrick car up there.
“It was a great team effort. It shows the commitment of all four teams, the engine shop and the whole company.”
Driver introductions for the Aaron’s 499 are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The green flag for the 188-lap race is schedule to wave at approximately 12:15.
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