CONCORD, N.C.—Jeff Gordon saved the best for last.
The final driver to make a qualifying run Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon edged Kevin Harvick for the top starting spot in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500, covering the 1.5-mile distance in 27.791 seconds (194.308 mph).
Harvick, next-to-last in the qualifying order, had just posted a lap at 194.283 mph, but with a scintillating trip through Turns 3 and 4, Gordon claimed his ninth Coors Light pole award at Charlotte and his second of the season by .015 seconds.
Gordon’s run to his 74th career pole—third most all-time—denied Harvick his second straight top starting spot. After a seven-year hiatus, Harvick won the pole for last week’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Kansas and went on to win the race.
Greg Biffle (193.959 mph) qualified third, followed by Jimmie Johnson (193.791 mph), Kasey Kahne (193.694 mph), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (193.535 mph) and Ryan Newman (193.458 mph), as Chase drivers captured the top seven starting spots.
Kahne went out second and held the provisional pole until Biffle, the 38th qualifier, topped him. Kahne quickly became an afterthought, however, as four of the final six drivers on the track outran him.
To Gordon, who is fourth in the Chase standings, 32 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, the pole was just another indication of his team’s growing confidence as the Chase progresses.
“I can tell you, I’m feeling better every race,” Gordon said. “I thought that we really started making ground up the week prior to Richmond… Every week that we perform well and lead laps and run up front builds the confidence that we can win races and put together some great runs and get the points that we need.
“At this point, we’re just going all-out, giving it everything we have. We’re not really thinking about points. We’re just trying to win races and get the best finishes that we can. Right now we’re just having fun.”
Harvick was behind the wheel of the same car he drove to victory from the pole at Kansas. With the Bank of America 500 scheduled for Saturday night, that meant a quick turnaround for a chassis that spent Tuesday undergoing post-race inspection at NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord.
“Turning the car around couldn’t have come in a worse week,” Harvick said. “We tested in Martinsville for two days and had to split the guys up to go down to inspection Tuesday. Wednesday night, they basically rebuilt the whole car and put it back together.
“But everybody wants to win. We racing in the thick of a championship, and qualifying well was a huge benefit for us last week, with the first pit stall. Obviously, we wanted to be greedy and get that again tonight.”
Eighth-place qualifier Juan Pablo Montoya was the only non-Chase driver to crack the top 10, with brothers Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch in ninth and 10th, respectively. Kenseth, who holds a three-point lead over Johnson, will start 20th.
Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Joey Logano 12th, Clint Bowyer 14th and Carl Edwards 15th.
Brian Scott, Kyle Larson and Blake Koch—all making their Cup debuts—earned the 19th, 21st and 43rd starting positions, respectively.