Earnhardt Jr. Wins First Richmond Pole

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. went out second-to-last in the session and posted a fast lap of 127.023 mph to take his first pole of the season and the 11th of his career. (Photo: Getty Images)


Starting Lineup | Qualifying Results | Wild Card Scenarios

Dale Earnhardt Jr. knocked Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon off the top spot to win his first pole at Richmond International Raceway in qualifying for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.Earnhardt Jr., who has recorded a 15.5 avg. start in the first 25 races of the season, went out second-to-last in the session and posted a fast lap of 127.023 mph to take his first pole of the season and the 11th of his career.

"The car drove really good in that qualifying run," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We have been working over the last two years to improve. We weren’t very good last year in qualifying all season. This year we have made some gains, so it feels good to get a pole position and know that we are improving and doing something right there."

The qualifying lap came in the same car Earnhardt raced to a second-place finish in April at RIR, and he hopes that momentum will carry him to his second win of the season before the start of the Chase.

“I think everybody wants to get the win to kick the Chase off, and go into the Chase with a lot of confidence," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It’s a fun race track; we love running here. I think we’ll have a good car tomorrow.”

Gordon, who is battling for a Wild Card spot, will start 13 positions ahead of his nearest competition, Kyle Busch. Both drivers have one win on the season and Busch heads into the race 12 points ahead of Gordon in the standings.

Jeff Gordon

"We need to put pressure on our competitors," Gordon said. "Pressure on the guys we are going to have to beat to win this race, as well as pressure on the guys we are battling with to make this Chase.

"We never go out there focused on one other individual. We go out there focused on our job, and what we have to do to win the race. That is what we plan on doing. We know that Kyle is going to be strong in this race. But, we're going to try to keep the pressure on him and the other guys that we are battling with out there."

Regan Smith equaled his best finish of the season with a lap of 126.910 mph.

"Good lap for the Furniture Row Chevy," Smith said. "I didn’t quite get what I wanted that second lap, but the first lap was enough. We are proud of that."

Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

April pole winner Mark Martin will start sixth with Denny Hamlin in seventh. Hamlin, who has recorded a 4.7 average finish in his last six Richmond starts, will be shooting for his third consecutive win of the season on Saturday night.

"I'm excited about the race," Hamlin said. "I think we're going to have a good FedEx Express Toyota Camry and I think we've got a great shot at three in a row. We've just got to keep it going."

Joey Logano, who is another Wild Card contender with one win, will start eighth.

"We'll see what we've got to do with the Home Depot car to go out there and win," Logano said. "You never know. It's going to be a crazy one."

Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski completed the top 10.

Ryan Newman and Marcos Ambrose, the other two Wild Card drivers with one win, qualified 14th and 22nd, respectively.

Tony StewartThree-time season winner Tony Stewart, who is holding on to the 10th spot in the standings over Kasey Kahne, had a rough day in practice and qualifying and will start 28th.

"It’s not been a good day for putting up a big lap by any means," Stewart said. "It is what got us in this position here. We will just keep battling with it and see what we can get.”

Kahne will start 21st.

Carl Edwards, the first Wild Card driver without a win, led the final practice and 10 consecutive lap average before locking down the best qualifying effort for a Ford, in 16th.

"I am excited about this race," Edwards said. "The car was really fast in the last practice. In race trim, we were the fastest car in the last practice, so that is good.”

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 starting at 6:30 p.m. (ET) with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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