Gordon disappointed in qualifying effort

Jeff Gordon qualified 21st Saturday. (Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon qualified 21st Saturday. (Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon qualified 21st Saturday. (Getty Images)

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Jeff Gordon thought he had a top-five car for qualifying on Saturday, but it didn’t work out that way. In his third race as a fill-in driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sidelined with concussion-like symptoms, Gordon had to settle for the 21st starting position.

“I was pretty disappointed,” Gordon said of his qualifying runs at the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course. “We were fast (in Friday’s practice). I felt like we were going to have no issues moving through to Round 2. I was more thinking about whether we could get in the top five. That’s not the way it went for our Axalta Chevrolet.

“The first run out I was a little conservative, just because I knew the grip level was down (thanks to overnight rain that washed rubber from the track). I just wanted to put a solid lap together and hit every corner. I got a little bit loose at the top of the esses. The second time out, I tried to attack a little bit more, and unfortunately, when I did that, I missed Turn 1 and my shift point, and that kind of just got us off the whole time.”

Nevertheless, Gordon was optimistic about his prospects for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355.

“I like this race track,” said Gordon, a four-time winner at the Glen. “I like the repave. The tire is a little tricky, but the team has done an excellent job and I’m having fun out there shifting and turning right and left…