Jeff Gordon earns Sprint Cup pole in Hendrick Motorsports onslaught at Talladega


Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne led a Hendrick Motorsports onslaught during Saturday’s Sprint Cup qualifying for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gordon will take the field to the green flag in Sunday’s race, thanks to a top qualifying speed of 194.793 mph.

In his final season as an active Sprint Cup driver, Saturday marked Gordon’s second consecutive pole of 2015 on a restrictor plate track, having won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We definitely have a fast Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet,” Gordon told FOX. “I think we’ve showed that all weekend long, but you don’t really know what you’ve got until you put it on the clock.

“I’m so proud of this pole because we got the pole in Daytona, but it was a totally different format. We knew the car was fast there. For this team to bring another car, a different car, here and all the hard work of the engine shop and what they do with the bodies, chassis and prep, a lot of hard work goes into this.

“That’s very awesome for Hendrick Motorsports to be on the front row. This was all them. I played a small role in Daytona, I played no role today, but it was fun.”

Gordon, who was more than .3 seconds quicker than Kahne’s effort, is seeking his 13th career restrictor plate win; he leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega.

Fellow Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle told FOX about Gordon’s run in the new single-qualifying format: “What I cannot get over is how fast Jeff Gordon’s car is. It’s been a long time since we’ve done single-car qualifying and a car that was .3 of a second faster than the whole field, not just second, but from second to 20th, to see Jeff’s car that fast.”

HMS drivers made up four of the top five cars in the qualifying results with Kahne second-fastest at 193.685 mph, his best qualifying effort this season, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4th at 193.599 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (5th at 193.427 mph) rounding out the top five.

“The Hendrick cars are really strong and the engines are running great,” Kahne said. “I told Jeff that coming to the front row, I knew I wouldn’t beat him because he’s really quick, but I knew we could get up to second. I was real happy with that. It’s a good starting spot. Hopefully tomorrow we stay out of trouble, we’re there at the end and we have a shot.”

Rookie Ryan Blaney was the only non-HMS driver in the top five, qualifying third at 193.611 mph.

Here’s how Sprint Cup qualifying played out:

1 Jeff Gordon … 194.793 mph

2 Kasey Kahne … 193.685

3 Ryan Blaney … 193.611

4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 193.599

5 Jimmie Johnson … 193.427

6 Tony Stewart … 193.419

7 Paul Menard … 193.412

8 Matt Kenseth … 193.357

9 David Ragan … 193.006

10 Clint Bowyer … 192.808

11 Casey Mears … 192.703

12 Sam Hornish Jr. … 192.343

13 Kyle Larson … 192.792

14 Austin Dillon … 192.789

15 Brad Keselowski … 192.777

16 Brian Scott … 192.765

17 Denny Hamlin … 192.738

18 Ryan Newman … 192.715

19 Kurt Busch … 192.680

20 Greg Biffle … 192.672

21 Joey Logano … 192.622

22 Carl Edwards … 192.587

23 Michael Waltrip … 192.181

24 Kevin Harvick … 192.050

25 Danica Patrick. … 191.835

26 Trevor Bayne … 191.727

27 Jamie McMurray … 191.627

28 Aric Almirola … 191.616

29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 191.581

30 Landon Cassill … 191.497

31 AJ Allmendinger … 191.252

32 Bobby Labonte … 191.176

33 Brendan Gaughan … 191.016

34 Josh Wise … 190.757

35 Justin Allgaier … 190.738

36 Martin Truex Jr. … 190.715

37 Alex Bowman … Owner Points

38 Chris Buescher … Owner Points

39 David Gilliland … Owner Points

40 Michael Annett … Owner Points

41 Cole Whitt … Owner Points

42 JJ Yeley … Owner Points

43 Matt DiBenedetto … Owner Points

DID NOT QUALIFY: Michael McDowell, Jeb Burton

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Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.