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Gordon wins Homestead pole, Harvick tops among title contenders

Homestead, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Five days after he was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Jeff Gordon won the pole for the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

While Gordon will start on the pole for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead, three of the four drivers battling for the Sprint Cup Series championship will start in the top-10. Kevin Harvick, the winner of last weekend's race at Phoenix, qualified fifth. Denny Hamlin, who won the 2013 season-finale at this 1.5-mile racetrack, took the eighth spot, and Joey Logano was ninth. Ryan Newman, who is the only one in the final four without a victory this season, will start 21st.

Gordon earned his third pole of the season and the 77th of his Cup career after making a lap at 180.747 mph during the third and final round of Friday's knockout qualifying at Homestead. It's his first pole in 16 races here as well. Gordon also gave Hendrick Motorsports its 200th pole in NASCAR's premier series.

"I'm really excited about that pole," Gordon said. "I've never been on the pole here before, and to be the 200th pole for Hendrick Motorsports is really cool. I think the way we are looking at this weekend is we want to close out the season the absolute best we can. It has been a tremendous season. The No. 24 team has been incredible this year. We are disappointed that we aren't in this thing for the championship, but that's not going to stop us from trying to go out to win the pole and win the race."

Gordon finished second at Phoenix but came up one point short of making into the Championship Round. Ryan Newman's 11th-place finish there allowed him to top Gordon for the last spot in the final four. Newman bumped rookie Kyle Larson and put him into the wall while the two were battling for the 11th position on the final turn of the last lap.

Kurt Busch qualified second, followed by Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, who set a new track qualifying record at Homestead with a lap at 181.238 mph during the first qualifying round.

The highest finisher among the four title contenders in this race will win the championship. Neither Hamlin, Harvick, Logano or Newman has yet to win a title in the series.

"Today was really about trying to get a solid starting spot," said Harvick, whose fifth-place in qualifying came with a lap at 179.946 mph. "We were able to do that with my Budweiser (sponsored) team. Just really proud of my guys. We had a really good day today. Just got to keep doing what we have to do and see where it all falls on Sunday."

Newman finished among the top-10 in the opening round of qualifying but failed to advance beyond the second round after posting a lap at 178.241 mph.

"We just struggled there a little bit," Newman said. "My first run was pretty good. The second run wasn't what we needed it to be. Our first run was where we were in practice. In the second run, we just weren't where we needed to be. We missed it just a little bit on the balance."

All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field.