Talladega, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeff Gordon claimed his 80th career pole in the Sprint Cup Series in Saturday's qualifying for the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Gordon, the last driver to make his qualifying run in the second and final round of qualifying, made a lap around this 2.66-mile superspeedway at 194.793 mph. It was the third pole of the year for Gordon, who is in his final season of Sprint Cup competition. He won the pole for the Daytona 500 -- the first restrictor-plate race of season -- and at Las Vegas. Talladega is the second restrictor-plate event in 2015.
This was the first time NASCAR used its modified version of single-car qualifying at a restrictor-plate track (Daytona and Talladega). It featured two rounds of qualifying, with the top-12 posted lap speeds in the opening round advancing into the last segment.
In March, NASCAR announced changes to the qualifying procedures for national touring series races at Daytona and Talladega after its group format was severely criticized by drivers at Daytona in February. With packs of cars running together, several big wrecks occurred during qualifying for the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races there.
Gordon had the fastest lap of the 45 drivers competing in the first round of single-car qualifying at Talladega. His lap in Q1 was clocked at 194.749 mph. The qualifying order for Q2 was determined by slowest to fastest speeds from the opening segment.
"We definitely have a fast Drive To End Hunger (sponsored) Chevrolet," Gordon said. "I think we've shown that all weekend long. But you never know what you've got until you put it on the clock. I am so proud of this pole because we got the pole in Daytona, but it was a totally different format. I knew the car was fast there ... I played a small role at Daytona, but I played no role today. It was fun."
Gordon leads all active drivers with six race wins at Talladega. He now has four poles in 45 starts here. Gordon is the last driver to win a Sprint Cup race from the pole at this track (April 2007).
Kasey Kahne, who is Gordon's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, went out eighth in Q2 and held the provisional pole with a lap at 193.685 mph. Gordon's lap was 0.281 seconds quicker than Kahne.
"It's great to be on the front row," Kahne said. "I knew I wouldn't beat (Gordon) because he's really quick. But I knew we could get up to second with a couple of things there. So I was really happy. That's a good starting spot. Hopefully (Sunday) we stay out of trouble, and we're there at the end and have a shot."
While Gordon and Kahne gave Hendrick a sweep of the front starting row, their teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson qualified fourth and fifth, respectively. Ryan Blaney, driving for The Wood Brothers, spoiled a Hendrick sweep of the first two rows by qualifying third at 193.611 mph.
"We've got a good starting spot, and hopefully we'll be able to run all the laps and not have any issues and stay out of trouble," said Blaney, who is making his fifth Sprint Cup start this season.
Finishing sixth through 12th in qualifying were: Tony Stewart, Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and Sam Hornish Jr.
Kyle Larson missed advancing into Q2 by only 0.003 seconds. Larson will start 13th.
Other notable drivers and their starting positions include: Brad Keselowski (15th), Denny Hamlin (17th), Ryan Newman (18th), Kurt Busch (19th), Joey Logano (21st), Carl Edwards (22nd), Kevin Harvick (24th), Danica Patrick (25th), Jamie McMurray (27th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (29th) and Martin Truex Jr. (36th).
Michael McDowell and Jeb Burton failed to qualify for Sunday's 500-mile race.