Gordon Leads Chevrolets Charge

Jeff Gordon set a fast lap of 185.735 mph around California Speedway on Friday to claim his 57th career Bud Pole award, and second pole position of his career at the 2-mile speedway, for Sunday’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Auto Club 500.

"It feels great," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "We just put a great race car out there on the track today and a really nice lap there."

Despite setting a qualifying time early in the day, Gordon was able to retain the pole position despite cooler temperatures later in the afternoon.

"I really thought somebody was going to beat us because we went so early and with the sun going down. These guys have been working really hard to get us back where we need to be with getting poles and running fast and leading laps and hopefully winning races and battling for a championship. It's so early in the year, but this is a great start."

The qualifying effort was also impressive as Gordon was the first of 10 Chevrolet drivers to claim a top-12 starting spot.

Kasey Kahne will start alongside Gordon with Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top five starting positions.

Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya and Casey Mears comprise the second half of the top-10 starting positions.

Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch completed the Chevy charge at the top of the qualifying chart.

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Ameriquest Ford Fusion, was the highest qualifier for his make.

"The car was really, really good – the car was way better than I was, unfortunately. I left a lot out there," said Biffle. "I turned in early and didn't carry a lot of speed in there and gave up a lot of speed in there. I think if we look at the Lap Tracker, we were about the same or beat 'em in three and four – just gave it all up in one and two."

Further back, Team Red Bull qualified for their first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race when Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Toyota, qualified 15th with a fast lap of 183.852 mph. Unfortunately for Vickers' teammate, AJ Allmendinger, he was amongst eight drivers who failed to make the field.

"I feel like we had a better car than what we qualified here, we had at least a top-10 car," said Vickers. "I was just trying to be conservative. I didn't want to go out there and try for the pole when we didn't need the pole, we just needed to make the race. We accomplished our goals and we're going to go race on Sunday and get some laps in."

The former Hendrick Motorsports team member is one of four Toyota drivers who will start Sunday's 250-lap event, with Dave Blaney (14th), David Reutimann (33rd) and Dale Jarrett (43rd) also qualifying for the race.

Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS Toyota, actually failed to make a qualifying run today due to transmission problems. Nonetheless, he was able to rely on one of six provisionals available to past champions per season. He has four remaining, having used one last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Defending race winner Matt Kenseth will start from the 25th starting position.

Amongst those leaving California early after failing to qualify include; Allmendinger, Michael Waltrip, Ward Burton, Jeremy Mayfield, Brandon Whitt, Mike Bliss, Kenny Wallace and Kevin Lepage.

Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, the first race in NEXTEL Cup history to use unleaded fuel, will be broadcast live by Fox and MRN Radio beginning at 3 p.m. (ET).

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