Jeff Gordon will start on the pole for the Federated Auto Parts 400 after setting a new track qualifying record at Richmond International Raceway on Friday.
Gordon, who is currently 11th in the point standings, turned a lap at 130.599 mph, which surpassed the previous track record of 130.334 mph, set by Matt Kenseth in April. It was Gordon's first pole of the season and the 73rd of his Sprint Cup Series career. He has now won at least one pole in 21 consecutive seasons, which broke a record he shared with David Pearson.
"Qualifying has not been very good for our team this year," said Gordon, who claimed his sixth pole at Richmond. "I'm very proud of this one. It comes at a great time. We know how important it is to make it into the Chase. We know how important that number-one pit stall is and starting up front."
With Richmond being the final race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, Gordon will clinch at least a wild card spot with a victory at Richmond. The four-time Cup Series champion has won at this 0.75- mile racetrack twice, but his most recent victory here came in September 2000.
Kurt Busch, who holds the 10th spot in points, will share the front row with Gordon after posting a lap at 130.334 mph. Busch is attempting to become the first driver from a single-car team to qualify for the Chase. He is driving for Furniture Row Racing this season before he moves over to Stewart-Haas Racing next year.
Busch will start on the front row for eighth time this season.
"Qualifying has been strong for us this year," Busch said. "I didn't think we would get the outside pole. That's eight outside poles for us. So it's cool to be in this position. We're right there with Gordon at the start of the race. Then we'll settle in and race our 400 laps."
Just six points separate Busch from Gordon. Neither driver has yet to win a race in 2013. Gordon finished second in last year's fall race at Richmond, allowing him to clinch the final spot in the 12-driver Chase field by just a three-point margin over Kyle Busch.
"Qualifying is one thing, and the race is something different," Gordon said. "We learned a lot in this race last year, and we learned a lot in our test (at Richmond) a few weeks ago. I think we learned some things here today as well."
Brad Keselowski, the defending series champion, qualified third. Keselowski desperately needs to win at Richmond, as he enters this race 28 points behind Busch.
Clint Bowyer and Kenseth will start fourth and fifth, respectively. Bowyer, who won at Richmond one year ago, and Kenseth, who leads the series with five victories this season, have already clinched a spot in the Chase.
Denny Hamlin qualified sixth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano and Greg Biffle. Regan Smith drove Jimmie Johnson's car to a 10th-place finish in qualifying.
Johnson missed practice and qualifying. His wife, Chandra, gave birth to their second daughter, Lydia Norriss, at a Charlotte, N.C. hospital on early Friday morning.
Mike Bliss was the only driver who failed to qualify for Saturday's 400-lap race at Richmond, which is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. ET.