Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed pole position for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond, while Jeff Gordon completed a front-row sweep for Hendrick Motorsports.
Earnhardt, who had been second fastest in first practice, beat Gordon's benchmark with a time of 21.256 seconds, just seven thousandths quicker than the four-time champion's flying lap, to secure his first pole of 2012. NASCAR's most popular driver is already locked in the Chase but starts the final race of the regular season hoping to get a victory and further bonus points.
"I've not really been the best of qualifiers the last couple of years," said Earnhardt. "We have a lot of improvements we've made this year. It feels good to get a pole."
He added: "I think everybody wants to get the win to kick the Chase off, and go into the Chase with a lot of confidence. It's a fun race track; we love running here. I think we'll have a good car tomorrow."
Gordon is also looking for a victory that would automatically hand him the final Chase wild card spot. He currently trails four-time Richmond winner Kyle Busch, who starts 15th, by only 12 points.
"We will just see where we end up," said Gordon. "It has been a solid day, we have a good race car. From here on out we are guaranteed a top 10 spot and we will see where we end up."
Furniture Row's Regan Smith was third fastest ahead of Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer, while Jimmie Johnson made it three Hendrick cars in the top five, having been second in final practice.
Denny Hamlin, winner of the last two races and virtual play-off leader, starts seventh beside his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano, who enters Saturday's event still with a shot at making the Chase.
Carl Edwards was fastest among the Roush Fenway cars in qualifying, having also led final practice. He lines up on row eight and needs a win to make the playoffd.
"I am excited about this race," said Edwards. "The car was really fast in the last practice. In race trim, we were the fastest car, I think, so that is good."
Michael McDowell was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 19th, while JJ Yeley and Mark Green failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 21.256s
2. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 21.263s + 0.007s
3. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 21.275s + 0.019s
4. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 21.292s + 0.036s
5. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 21.295s + 0.039s
6. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 21.296s + 0.040s
7. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 21.315s + 0.059s
8. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 21.327s + 0.071s
9. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 21.335s + 0.079s
10. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 21.336s + 0.080s
11. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge 21.359s + 0.103s
12. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 21.405s + 0.149s
13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 21.415s + 0.159s
14. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 21.416s + 0.160s
15. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 21.423s + 0.167s
16. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 21.423s + 0.167s
17. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 21.433s + 0.177s
18. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 21.439s + 0.183s
19. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 21.449s + 0.193s
20. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 21.455s + 0.199s
21. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 21.476s + 0.220s
22. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 21.481s + 0.225s
23. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 21.497s + 0.241s
24. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 21.506s + 0.250s
25. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 21.512s + 0.256s
26. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 21.533s + 0.277s
27. David Ragan Front Row Ford 21.533s + 0.277s
28. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 21.536s + 0.280s
29. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 21.541s + 0.285s
30. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 21.561s + 0.305s
31. David Stremme Inception Toyota 21.591s + 0.335s
32. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 21.602s + 0.346s
33. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 21.619s + 0.363s
34. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 21.621s + 0.365s
35. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 21.644s + 0.388s
36. Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 21.648s + 0.392s
37. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 21.651s + 0.395s
38. Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 21.680s + 0.424s
39. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford 21.703s + 0.447s
40. Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 21.719s + 0.463s
41. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 21.746s + 0.490s
42. Casey Mears Germain Ford 21.759s + 0.503s
43. Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Chevrolet 21.813s + 0.557s
Did not qualify:
JJ Yeley Max Q Chevrolet 21.868s + 0.612s
Mark Green SS Toyota 22.321s + 1.065s