By AMANDA VINCENT
Hendrick Motorsports, led by Jeff Gordon, stole the show during NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying Saturday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway for Sunday’s Geico 500. Gordon claimed his 80th-career pole and his third pole of 2015 with a 49.160-second lap in the second of two rounds of qualifying.
“My hat’s off to all these guys on the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet,” Gordon said.
All four Hendrick cars qualified in the top-five, with Kasey Kahne in the second spot next to Gordon on the front row. HMS teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson were fourth and fifth in the final round to take the final two spots in the top-five of Sunday’s starting grid.
“The Hendrick cars are really strong,” Kahne said. “The engines are running great.”
The only non-Hendrick Motorsports driver to qualify in the top-five was Ryan Blaney.
NASCAR unveiled a new superspeedway qualifying format for Talladega that combined “old school” single car qualifying with the multi-round elimination format utilized the last couple of years.
“I like it,” Gordon said of the format. “It’s great.”
The session was comprised of two rounds, with Gordon leading the way in both. In the first round, his 49.171-second lap was more than 0.3 seconds faster than the lap of record of second-fastest of the round, Paul Menard. In the seonc round, Gordon’s lap was some 0.28 seconds faster than Kahne’s
Here’s the complete starting lineup for Sunday’s Geico 400:
Row 1: Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 2: Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Dale Eearnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 3: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
Row 4: Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 5: David Ragan (No. 18 Toyota), Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)
Row 6: Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet), Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 9 Ford)
Row 7: Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet), Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet)
Row 8: Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Brian Scott (No. 33 Chevrolet)
Row 9: Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota, Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 10: Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Row 11: Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Carl Edwards (No. 19 Ford)
Row 12: Michael Waltrip (No. 55 Toyota), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet)
Row 13: Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet), Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford)
Row 14: Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 15: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Landon Cassill (No. 40 Chevrolet)
Row 16: A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet), Bobby Labonte (No. 32 Ford)
Row 17: Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Chevrolet), Josh Wise (No. 98 Ford)
Row 18: Justin Allgaier (No. 51 Chevrolet), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Chevrolet)
Row 19: Alex Bowman (No. 7 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 34 Ford)
Row 20: David Gilliland (No. 38 Ford), Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet)
Row 21: Cole Whitt (No. 35 Ford), J.J. Yeley (No. 23 Toyota)
Row 22: Matt DiBenedetto (No. 83 Toyota)
DNQ (did not qualify): Michael McDowell, Jeb Burton