October 19, 2007
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (cbssportsline.com/AP) --- Jeff Gordon won't have to pass Jimmie Johnson this time.
The points leader failed for 53 laps at the end of the Nextel Cup spring race Martinsville Speedway to get around his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, and wound up second as Johnson took the checkered flag on NASCAR's shortest circuit.
This time, Johnson will have to get around his teammate after Gordon won the pole for the Subway 500 at 94.974 mph on the 0.526-mile circuit on a rainy Friday.
The pole is the 63rd of Gordon's career, his seventh this season and the sixth of his career at Martinsville. He's also won seven times here, tops among active drivers, and he and his one-time protege have combined to win seven of the last nine events.
It's also bad news for the rest of the field, Gordon said.
"Qualifying, I think, throughout my career, but especially this year, too, it seems to really contribute greatly to our success," said Gordon, the four-time series champion and points leader halfway through this year's 10-race Chase.
Johnson, 68 points back in second, will start fourth Sunday.
"I love Martinsville," Gordon said. "This is a track where ... we just hit on some things early on in my career and as much as some guys struggle here, it's quite the opposite for me. I just really like this track and when you like a track and you run well at a track, all you have to do is fine-tune your set-up and make it better."
Gordon and the rest of the field didn't get much time to fine-tune anything before qualifying because intermittent rain meant track drying equipment got the most laps.
"It was a tricky day with the limited practice," Gordon said.
Chevrolet took the top four spots on the grid with Martin Truex Jr. earning the spot outside Gordon with a lap at 94.737 mph and Kevin Harvick third at 94.685 mph.
Truex has never started better than 15th in four previous races here.
After starting the playoffs in seventh place, Truex has fallen to 11th after five races, and said he's trying to salvage something in the final five events of the year.
"We're just going to go out there and try to win races," he said.
The top 10 includes Kasey Kahne in a Dodge, the Chevys of Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and J.J. Yeley, Jamie McMurray's Ford and Tony Raines in a Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer, only 10 points behind Johnson in the points race, will start 21st.
The day was a good one for Toyota, which placed five cars in the field, led by Dave Blaney in 17th position. Blaney has finished third and sixth the last two weeks.
"Now I just have to survive the race on Sunday," he said.
Ward Burton, a local favorite who hails from South Boston about an hour from the track, barely made it into the field, qualifying 36th, and his fastest lap ended the bid of IndyCar star Sam Hornisch Jr. to make his debut in the premier series.
"It's tough, but we knew it was going to be tough," Hornisch said.
The Associated Press News Service