Earnhardt sets record to take Kentucky pole
The questions during NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying Friday were how many drivers would raise Kentucky Speedway's record and by how much.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided the answer of the eight that broke it, clocking 183.636 mph to wrest the mark from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and the pole for Saturday night's race.
Earnhardt's speed was nearly 2 mph faster than Johnson's 181.818 mph last June, which he needed to keep Johnson from keeping the record.
Minutes before, Johnson had a lap at 183.144 mph to hold off Ryan Newman (182.254). Earnhardt set the standard in the No. 88 Chevy soon after and survived several furious attempts to unseat him before coming away with his 12th career pole and first at Kentucky.
Carl Edwards (183.306 mph) eventually grabbed the outside front in the No. 99 Ford. Johnson settled for third with Kyle Busch (182.593) fourth in a Toyota.
Gordon seeks boost
Jeff Gordon hopes that crossing the last track off his to-win list can help him gain ground in the Chase standings.
Either way, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has his work cut out for him.
Kentucky Speedway is the lone Cup venue left for Gordon to conquer, though Saturday night will mark just his third start at the track. It's still a challenge with a rough, bumpy surface, not to mention a history of triple-digit track temperatures that have worn down drivers and cars.
Gordon's biggest obstacle is clearing three drivers and cracking the top 10 for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. That's asking a lot in a hard-luck season including four DNFs, leaving no room for error with 10 races remaining in NASCAR's regular season.
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