Gordon will start up front in charge for final Chase spots
The race for the final spots in the Chase will be contested starting at the front of the field in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Three drivers in need of wins or strong finishes to make this year's 12-driver Chase field took the top three positions in qualifying, led by Jeff Gordon's track record qualifying speed of 130.599 mph.
The pole is Gordon's first of the season and 73rd of his Sprint Cup Series career.
Kurt Busch qualified second followed by Brad Keselowski Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. Bowyer and Kenseth are already locked into the Chase.
"Qualifying has not been very good for me and my team this year. This one came at a good time," Gordon said. "We can breathe a little bit easier now. There are so many things that will happen in this race and this is just step No. 1."
Gordon enters the race 11th in the series standings, six points behind Busch, who is 10th. The Top 10 in points are guaranteed a spot in the Chase. Keselowski is 15th, 28 points behind Busch.
Johnsons welcome second daughter: Jimmie Johnson's wife, Chandra, gave birth early Friday morning to the couple's second daughter, Lydia Norriss, in Charlotte. A team press release said Lydia weighed five pounds, 10 ounces and was 19 inches long.
Chandra and the baby were doing well and expected to remain overnight in the hospital. The couple already has a 3-year-old daughter, Genevieve.
Johnson missed practice and qualifying. Regan Smith, a Nationwide Series driver for JR Motorsports, filled in for Johnson. Johnson will return in time for Saturday's race.
No. 30 gets new driver: Swan Racing announced Friday that Cole Whitt will take over driving duties of the No. 30 Toyota next weekend at Chicagoland, replacing David Stremme.
Whitt is scheduled to drive the No. 30 in four other races this season: Kansas, Charlotte, Talladega, and Phoenix. The team will also use additional yet-to-be-determined drivers in the car this season.
Tire test at Phoenix: Five Cup series teams will be taking part in a Goodyear tire test on Tuesday at Phoenix International Raceway. The test will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and admission for fans is free.
Drivers Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya and Brian Vickers will take part in the test.
Three things to watch
1. Ten drivers have a chance to claim the final five spots in this season's Chase. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Kasey Kahne have already clinched spots.
2. Denny Hamlin could use a bit of good luck and Richmond is a good place to look for it. He has two wins at Richmond, and finishes in the Top 10 in four of his last five races at the track.
3. Kyle Busch is fresh off a win and has scored the most points over the past nine races.
• Three-time series champion Tony Stewart made his first appearance at a track since his Aug. 5 wreck in a dirt car race that left him with a pair of broken bones in his right leg. Stewart made his way around the garage with the help of a motorized scooter fully decked out with his Cup series sponsor's decals. "Being at the race track is the best medicine for me," Stewart said.
• Richmond International Raceway hosted the 1,000th race in Nationwide Series history on Friday night. Richmond also hosted the series' second race, which was won by Tommy Houston. The series' first race was held Feb. 13, 1982, at Daytona International Speedway and was won by Dale Earnhardt Sr.
• While Stewart was making his way around the garage on wheels, his substitute driver for most of the rest of this season, Mark Martin, arrived at the track wearing a T-shirt given out at Stewart's press conference earlier in the week featuring the logo "SmokeWillRise."
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth
Where: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Track type: 3/4-mile paved slightly banked oval.
Race distance: 300 miles over 400 laps.
Weather: Clear with a high in the low 70s.
TV: ABC. Green flag is 7:47 p.m.
Radio: Motor Racing Network