Jeff Gordon takes pole for Bank of America 500

Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013

Jeff Gordon said he needed to qualify better to have a chance to return to Victory Lane.

At least for this weekend, mission accomplished.

Gordon, the last of 43 drivers to attempt a qualifying lap Thursday night, used a fast run through Turns 3 and 4 to win the pole for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Gordon’s lap speed at 194.308mph barely eclipsed the lap of Kevin Harvick (194.203 mph), who went out just before Gordon.

“Man, that was awesome,” Gordon said after clinching his 74th Cup pole, second of the year and ninth at Charlotte. “It’s been a while since we won a pole here in Charlotte and in that kind of fashion.

“With the way the (qualifying) draw was today, there were a lot of fast cars going late. When you didn’t see the lap times pick up as much as we thought they would, I didn’t know if our late draw would be a great factor.”

With six races left in 2013, Gordon has a chance to win a fifth series championship, but he remains without a victory. He is fourth in the standings, 32 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

While his performance has picked up of late – he has finished sixth or better in three of the four Chase races – Gordon is certain wins will be necessary to gain on the drivers ahead of him.

During recent months, Gordon repeatedly has talked of his team performing better on race day than during qualifying and wanted to change that dynamic.

He said he considered it a challenge of sorts.

“My team has to trust in me just like I have to trust in them. All we have is that communication back and forth,” Gordon said. “These guys have stuck with me all year long at times when I was frustrated with myself and I didn’t feel like I was getting the most out of it.

“They also knew they needed to make some adjustments themselves on the (car) set-ups. We’ve come together – that’s all I can say. Our cars are performing better and we’re able to build some positive confidence and momentum.”

Harvick broke a seven-year drought by winning the pole last weekend at Kansas and nearly made it two in a row Thursday night.

He turned last weekend’s pole into a victory, and his team brought the same No.29 Chevrolet to the track this week.

“We knew we needed to qualify better in the Chase, we knew we had to run better on the mile-and-a-half tracks and (my team) is bringing the cars to the race track to do that and we’re capitalizing on it,” he said.

Greg Biffle qualified third-fastest, Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Kasey Kahnefifth. Kenseth will line up 20th.

“I don’t feel like the (qualifying) draw was a bad draw, we just weren’t very good,” said Kenseth, who was the first driver to qualify. “It was cloudy all day and it was dark (in qualifying), so I don’t think that really put us at a deficit.”

For the rest of the drivers in the Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start sixth; Ryan Newman, seventh; Kyle Busch, ninth; Kurt Busch, 10th; Joey Logano, 12th; Clint Bowyer, 14th; and Carl Edwards, 15th.

Nationwide Series regulars Brian Scott and Kyle Larson both did well in qualifying and will make their Cup series debuts Saturday night. Scott will start 19th and Larson 21st.

Larson will move to the Cup series fulltime in 2014 with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, but Scott will run another full Nationwide schedule next season with Richard Chidlress Racing.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.