CONCORD, N.C. – Jeff Gordon is feeling rejuvenated as the NASCAR Sprint Cup season winds down.
Gordon carried over a strong performance in Kansas last weekend to Thursday night by winning the pole for the race Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Gordon, who is fourth in the Chase standings, said it’s been a frustrating season but that he’s feeling better with each passing race.
“I feel like we knocked it out of the park tonight,” Gordon said.
Gordon turned a lap at 194.308 mph to edge Kevin Harvick for his ninth pole at Charlotte, tied for the second-most in track history.
Greg Biffle qualified third for the Saturday night race, Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Kasey Kahne — who held the pole for most of the night — will start fifth Saturday night.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrated his 39th birthday by qualifying sixth for his 500th Sprint Cup start. Ryan Newman was seventh, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.
Gordon was upbeat after the qualifying, saying things are finally starting to mesh for the No. 24 Chevrolet team.
“The thing is it’s really hard to maintain your confidence in what you’re doing when you’re struggling,” Gordon said. “I felt like all year long we have been racing better than we have been qualifying, but that qualifying was a weakness for us and we needed to get better track position. It’s hard not to get down when things aren’t going well. It’s hard to come in here all bubbly and having fun because honestly, it wasn’t fun.”
The 42-year-old Gordon hasn’t won a race on the Sprint Cup series this year but believes he’s going to need to win one to have a legitimate shot at winning his fifth Cup championship.
Gordon enters the weekend 32 points behind leader Matt Kenseth with six races left. Kenseth qualified 20th.
“This will be one of our worst qualifying efforts of the year so we have a lot of work to do,” Kenseth said.
Kahne was hoping Thursday night would give his team momentum after what has been a disappointing showing so far in the Chase. He enters the weekend in 13th place, 83 points behind Kenseth.
INDYCAR: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was released from a Houston hospital, four days after fracturing his spine and breaking his right ankle in an IndyCar Series crash.
“I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and I’m thankful to have such a great family and such wonderful friends and fans. Thanks to everyone at the hospital and the track who took such good care of me during my stay in Houston,” Franchitti said in a statement.
Franchitti was headed back to Indianapolis for further evaluation and will eventually have a second surgery on his ankle. He underwent surgery Sunday night to stabilize his ankle following the accident on the last lap of the Grand Prix of Houston.