LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jeff Gordon, preparing for his final start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, won the pole for Sunday’s race — his first career pole at the track.
It’s the 79th pole of Gordon’s career and leaves just Kansas and Kentucky as the only active tracks where he’s yet to win a pole. Kentucky is the only track on the circuit where Gordon has not won a race.
The four-time champion is retiring at the end of this season.
Gordon turned a lap at 194.679 mph in his Chevrolet and gave a hard pump of his arm into the air as he climbed from the car. He said he was conservative in the second round of qualifying, but went for it in the final round.
“I knew that if we were going to win the pole, you have to be fully committed and just go for it,” he said. “I drove it down in there and I may have come off it a tiny bit, but it wasn’t much at all. And it stuck so good. That was fun.”
Gordon also won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500, but he crashed at the end of that race. He was one of 13 drivers who didn’t make a qualifying attempt last week at Atlanta because their cars did not clear inspection in time. He then had a hard crash into an unprotected concrete wall in Sunday’s race.
“What a turnaround from last week,” he said of his Hendrick Motorsports team. “I am just so proud of this team and keeping their heads up and it’s just a great way to start the weekend at Las Vegas.”
Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano qualified second in a Team Penske Ford.
“We were so close,” Logano said. “I felt good about it and thought it was the fastest I had been, but Jeff laid down a really good one.”
Hendrick Motorsports-powered cars had seven of the top 12 qualifying times, and all four Hendrick drivers advanced to the final round.
Kasey Kahne qualified third and was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Larson.
A week after inspection at Atlanta created a debacle in qualifying because so many drivers never got on the track, only one had an issue on Friday.
NASCAR pulled Brad Keselowski off the grid moments before qualifying began and sent his Ford back to inspection because an official witnessed the team pulling out the wheel opening on pit road. Team Penske had to fix the issue in the inspection bay, and Keselowski hustled out onto the track with under six minutes remaining in the first session.
Keselowski wound up 11th, but had no answers for what happened with his car and NASCAR inspectors.
“I honestly don’t know enough to speak intelligently about it, so I will let the smart guys do that part,” he said.
Gordon said there were still issues in inspection for most cars, and he needed two times to pass through. It created a backup, but he said NASCAR managed to get all the cars through before qualifying began.
“It happened again, and somehow all the cars got out there on pit road,” Gordon said.
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