Jeff Gordon claimed his 70th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career pole in qualifying for Sunday's race at Talladega, leading a top-four sweep by Hendrick Motorsports.
The most successful active driver at the 2.66-mile track set a best time of 53.723 seconds at an average speed of 178.248 mph, beating the previous benchmark set by his Hendrick teammate Mark Martin. Jimmie Johnson then got closest to Gordon's time but the four-time champion edged his old pupil by over a tenth to claim his second pole position ever at Talladega.
With Dale Earnhardt Jr ending up fourth after initially holding pole position, Hendrick Motorsports became only the third team in Cup history to complete a top-four sweep of the grid, the last time being at Fontana in 2005 by Roush Fenway Racing.
"Obviously I didn't have to do a whole lot with it," said Gordon about his lap. "We didn't even make a qualifying run [in practice], just held it wide open and very impressed to see 1-2-3-4 from Hendrick Motorsports. Ironic too, because me and Markhave been working together in practice and he's now right behind me.
"I expect the 48 [Johnson] and 88 [Earnhardt] to work together there nose to tail. It's a great way to get the weekend started."
Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard was fifth fastest, while Phoenix Racing's rookie Landon Cassill was sixth with a Hendrick engine, ensuring a top-six sweep for Chevrolet.
David Ragan's Ford was best of the rest in seventh for Roush Fenway Racing ahead of the Penske Dodge of Kurt Busch, the Red Bull Toyota of Brian Vickers and the RCR Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer, the most recent winner at the track.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was 11th fastest for Wood Brothers, ahead of Michael Waltrip, the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers, followed by Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya.
Mike Skinner, Tony Raines and Michael McDowell failed to qualify, while Robby Gordon's car was driven by Sam Hornish Jr. after Gordon failed to make it to Talladega on time on Friday due to the weather. Hornish qualified the car but his times were disallowed after the car failed height checks during inspection.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 53.723s
2. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 53.845s + 0.122s
3. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 53.856s + 0.133s
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 53.869s + 0.146s
5. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 53.888s + 0.165s
6. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 53.893s + 0.170s
7. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 53.968s + 0.245s
8. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 53.986s + 0.263s
9. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 53.989s + 0.266s
10. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 53.994s + 0.271s
11. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 53.994s + 0.271s
12. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota 54.005s + 0.282s
13. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 54.046s + 0.323s
14. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 54.058s + 0.335s
15. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 54.065s + 0.342s
16. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 54.075s + 0.352s
17. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 54.079s + 0.356s
18. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 54.083s + 0.360s
19. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 54.092s + 0.369s
20. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 54.100s + 0.377s
21. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 54.141s + 0.418s
22. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 54.195s + 0.472s
23. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 54.206s + 0.483s
24. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 54.232s + 0.509s
25. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 54.249s + 0.526s
26. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 54.262s + 0.539s
27. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 54.267s + 0.544s
28. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 54.278s + 0.555s
29. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 54.295s + 0.572s
30. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 54.302s + 0.579s
31. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 54.317s + 0.594s
32. Kevin Conway NEMCO Toyota 54.349s + 0.626s
33. Steve Park Baldwin Chevrolet 54.359s + 0.636s
34. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 54.428s + 0.705s
35. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 54.469s + 0.746s
36. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 54.592s + 0.869s
37. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 54.611s + 0.888s
38. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 54.672s + 0.949s
39. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 54.678s + 0.955s
40. Casey Mears* Germain Toyota 54.847s + 1.124s
41. Terry Labonte* FAS Lane Ford 54.949s + 1.226s
42. Sam Hornish Jr* Gordon Dodge
43. Bill Elliott** Whitney Chevrolet
Did not qualify:
Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 54.692s + 0.969s
Tony Raines Front Row Ford 54.720s + 0.997s
Michael McDowell HP Toyota 54.770s + 1.047s
* Qualified via owners' points standings
** Qualified via champion's provisional