Gor­don in prime po­si­tion at Tal­ladega

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY JENNA FRYER

tal­ladega, ala. — Jeff Gor­don led a Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports rout in quali­fy­ing Satur­day to win the pole for his fi­nal race at Tal­ladega Su­per­speed­way.

Gor­don led team­mates Kasey Kahne and Jim­mie John­son in a sweep of the top three start­ing spots for the race Sun­day. Dale Earn­hardt Jr. qual­i­fied fifth to put the four Hen­drick driv­ers in the first three rows at the 2.66mile su­per­speed­way.

It was the best out­come for Gor­don and Earnnhardt, the only two Hen­drick driv­ers still in the Chase for the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship field. Both need strong runs — Earn­hardt may ac­tu­ally need a vic­tory — to ad­vance into the third round of the play­offs.

Four driv­ers will be cut from the Chase field fol­low­ing the race. Gor­don is sev­enth in the stand­ings, while Earn­hardt is 11th in the 12-driver field. Both driv­ers are six-time win­ners at Tal­ladega, and Earn­hardt won the spring race here.

“It is good enough,” Earn­hardt said about his start­ing po­si­tion. “Some of the guys had a lit­tle more speed, but we feel like our car is go­ing to race re­ally well and just ready to go.”

Matt Kenseth, who is last in the Chase field, qual­i­fied fourth. Like Earn­hardt, he likely needs to win Sun­day to move into the third round.

“One thing about Tal­ladega is you al­ways have to ex­pect the un­ex­pected, so who knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Kenseth said. “Just anx­ious to get lined up for the race and see what hap­pens.”

Chase driver Martin Truex Jr. had his time thrown out by NASCAR as penalty for driv­ing be­low the yel­low line on the race track dur­ing his quali­fy­ing lap. Truex said he was un­aware the rule — en­forced dur­ing plate races — had been im­ple­mented for quali­fy­ing, too.

“Ap­par­ently there was a memo sent out, and I never got it,” Truex said.

He will start last in the 43-car field but wasn’t wor­ried.

“We started in the back last time, too. We’ll be fine,” Truex said of the spring race in which he started 36th but fin­ished fifth.

There was a bizarre mishap on pit road when NASCAR gave Clint Bowyer the sig­nal to be­gin his lap. He revved his en­gine, and un­be­knownst to him, his car was in re­verse and backed hard into Justin All­gaier’s car.

All­gaier’s car suf­fered enough dam­age that his crew had to make quick re­pairs to get him on track for his quali­fy­ing at­tempt but will need more work to get ready to race Sun­day.

Bowyer said it was the “strangest” thing he had ever been part of in rac­ing and felt ter­ri­ble for All­gaier and HS­cott Mo­tor­sports, the team Bowyer will drive for next sea­son.

“Ob­vi­ously it was in re­verse,” Bowyer said. “As soon as I let the clutch out, it was go­ing the wrong way. I feel re­ally, re­ally bad. This is sup­posed to be an un­event­ful day, I just made it event­ful.”

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