MARTINSVILLE, Va. &
Jeff Gordon laughs at the notion that sitting 14th in the point standings after five races means he's off to a slow start, and he showed that he's doing just fine on Friday by winning the pole at Martinsville Speedway.
"Yes, turn things around. It has been a terrible year," Gordon said in jest Friday after turning a lap at 96.288 mph. "I don't mind people saying, 'Hey, you are 14th in points. You aren't having the type of year you had last year."
Gordon's lap on the 0.526-mile oval, the oldest, shortest and trickiest in NASCAR's Spring Cup Series, easily beat Denny Hamlin (95.757) for his seventh career Martinsville pole and the 65th of his career, the fourth-best total in NASCAR history.
Only Richard Petty (126), David Pearson (112) and Cale Yarborough (70) won more.
Gordon also has won seven times on the oval, tops among active drivers, and hopes he can quiet the critics who say his Hendrick Motorsports team is struggling.
"It bothers me when somebody says we aren't running good because we have been running great," he said. "There is a big difference in my opinion between running good and finishing good."
For Hamlin, finishing behind a Hendrick car was old news at Martinsville, where he's made a habit of it.
"I'm usually the guy that runs right behind them it seems like," Hamlin said. "I think maybe we're a little more prepared for those guys this year, though. I think our cars are working a little bit better and maybe their's aren't working as well as they were last year at this time."
The second row features rookie Aric Almirola and David Ragan, followed by Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Ken Schrader and Kyle Busch.
Jimmie Johnson, winner of the last three races at Martinsville, will start 10th.
IRL transplant Sam Hornish Jr. was the top qualifying rookie, securing the 26th spot with a lap at 94.637 mph, while fellow former open wheel racers Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti also made the race. Carpentier will start 37th, Franchitti 43rd.
Also in is Michael McDowell, who will make his first start in the series in the No. 00 car that David Reutimann drove until this week for Michael Waltrip's three-car Toyota team. Reutimann has moved into the No. 44 that opened when Dale Jarrett retired.
McDowell will start 34th.
Gordon wins pole at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. &