Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. topped his Hendrick
Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, by a slim margin to win Friday's qualifying
for the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Earnhardt, who was the second-to-last driver to qualify in the 45-car field,
turned a lap at 127.023 mph to claim his 11th career Sprint Cup Series pole
but his first since the 2011 season-opening Daytona 500. He is one of 10
drivers who has already secured a spot in the 12-driver field for the Chase
for the Sprint Cup championship.
Gordon, who is one of eight drivers battling for the two remaining positions
in the Chase, secured the outside pole with a lap at 126.981 mph. Gordon's
time was just 0.007 seconds behind Earnhardt Jr.
Regan Smith qualified third, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Mark
Denny Hamlin will start seventh in his attempt to win a third consecutive
race. Hamlin, who hails from nearby Chesterfield, Va., won at Bristol and
Atlanta prior to Richmond.
Heading into Saturday night's regular-season-ending race at this 0.75-mile
racetrack, Kasey Kahne holds the first of two wild card positions by virtue of
his two wins this season. Kahne will start 21st. Kyle Busch occupies the final
wild card spot. Busch qualified 15th.
Gordon is third in the wild card rankings and trails Busch by 12 points. Both
drivers have one win a piece.
Stewart, currently 10th in the point standings, qualified 28th. Stewart is
guaranteed a position in the Chase since he has three victories for the year.
Other Chase contenders and their starting positions include: Joey Logano
(eighth), Ryan Newman (14th) Carl Edwards (16th), Marcos Ambrose (22nd) and
Paul Menard (25th).
J.J. Yeley and Mark Green failed to qualify for the 400-lap race at Richmond,
which is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. (ET).
The Sports Network