HOMESTEAD (AP) — Jeff Gordon bounced back from last week’s heartbreaking elimination from the championship race by winning the pole for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Gordon turned a lap at 180.747 mph in Friday qualifying to earn the top starting spot for a race that became meaningless to his season after he crossed the finish line last week at Phoenix. Gordon finished second and was in the field of four drivers for the championship race, but he was knocked out seconds later by Ryan Newman.
Using an aggressive pass of Kyle Larson coming out of the final turn, Newman picked up the one position he needed to knock Gordon from the championship race by one point.
Now Gordon will race only for the trophy on Sunday, while Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman will compete for the title.
“If we win this race on Sunday, it’s only going to make it hurt a little more,” Gordon said of his disappointment of being eliminated.
“I think the way we’re looking at this weekend is we want to finish this season on the best note possible. It’s been a tremendous season for us. I’m disappointed we’re not in this thing for the championship, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to win the pole and win the race.”
Harvick will lead the title contenders Sunday by starting fifth. Hamlin will start eighth and Logano is in the 12th slot. Newman was the worst qualifier at 21st.
Harvick continued his needling of Logano, the youngest driver in the championship field. It began at Wednesday night’s contenders event when he deliberately tried to rattle Logano, and carried over into Friday when he was told to wait off to the side while Logano and Hamlin were participating in a news conference.
“I’m going up here anyway,” he said as strolled onto the stage. “Going to sit right here next to my buddy.”
Logano grinned, patted Harvick on the back, and said: “What’s up, buddy?”
Hamlin then stood as if he was going to leave, “Alright, I’ll let you two have at it,” he joked.
The champion will be the highest-finishing driver among the four on Sunday, and it will be the first Cup title for the winner.
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