HAMPTON, Ga. – Hendrick Motorsports, still looking for its first Sprint Cup victory of 2008, got off to a good start in Friday’s Kobalt Tools 500 qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting the front-row starting spots.
Gordon earned his 64th career Cup pole with a lap at 185.521 mph around the 1.54-mile oval.
“This is a very fast race track, and it’s tough to get around here quick,” Gordon said.
“Today we got out in practice and I thought was something was wrong with the car it was so far out of control. We kept making progress, and to go out and put down that kind of lap feels great.”
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It’s only Gordon’s second career pole at this track, where he made his first career Cup start in the final race of the 1992 season. Gordon started first here for the fall race in 2000. He has four career victories here, winning most recently in the fall of 2003.
“It’s time for us to get ourselves up to where we need to be in the points,” said Gordon, a four-time Cup champion who is 22nd in the standings after three races this season.
Earnhardt Jr., who is 10th in the standings, ran 184.862 mph to earn the No. 2 starting spot at a track where he’s had nine finishes of seventh or better in the past 13 races.
“It would be great to win here,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
“I love this race track. We need to get a victory as soon as we can, but I think every team in the garage feels that way.”
Martin Truex Jr. was third fastest with Carl Edwards, the winner of the past two races, fourth. Bobby Labonte, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10.
Brian Vickers got the final spot available for the go-or-go-home cars, hanging on by three-hundredths of a second over Ken Schrader, whose Dodge was the last car to make a qualifying run.