BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 17, 2007) – And the last shall be first.
And the second-to-last shall be second.
And so it went today in qualifying for Sunday’s NASCAR NEXTEL Cup 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Jeff Gordon, the last of 48 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, knocked Greg Biffle off the pole. Biffle went out just before Gordon to push Kasey Kahne from the inside of the front row, a position Kahne gained early in the session.
Gordon, the current NASCAR NEXTEL point leader, posted a speed of 189.026 mph. That was just 69 thousandths of a second faster than Biffle, whose speed was 188.684 mph. Kahne will start on the inside of the second row, next to Bobby Labonte, the fourth fastest qualifier. Only one second separated Gordon and Jeff Green, the 42nd fastest qualifier in the 43-car field.
Gordon, in winning his sixth pole position of the season and 62nd of his career, had some things that worked in his favor by going out late in the afternoon when the track was reportedly six degrees cooler than at the start of qualifying..
“Just the angle of the sun, believe it or not, you might not feel it or see it but the track temperature cools down a few degrees and in that way it paid off,’’ Gordon said. “The biggest thing is that you get an opportunity to look and watch every car, listen on the radio to the driver’s comments and watch your teammates and see what they did and then make air pressure adjustments on pit road.
“You hope the adjustments that you made when you went through inspection were the right ones and then you’ve got the fine tuning of the air pressure adjustments on pit road. You know what kind of lap you have to run. When Biffle ran that lap right before me I knew that I had to pick up about six-tenths of a second from what I ran in practice.
“I thought I could have gotten into the throttle a lot harder but it turned out to be a great lap. Biffle stepped it up before me and obviously we had to do the same thing.”
Biffle, though disappointed, wasn’t totally distraught by any means even though it would have been his first pole of the season.
“It was really a good run,” he said. “I probably could’ve got in turns three and four a little bit better, and that was probably the difference. The thing is we’re got a great car for this weekend, and that’s what we’re excited about.”
It wasn’t exactly a “Who’s Who” in NEXTEL Cup racing among the top 12 qualifiers. Only five drivers in the top 12 in the point standings qualified among the top 12. They included Gordon, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.
Toyota, with three drivers finishing in the Top 20 in the June NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at MIS, laded four drivers in the top 20 qualifying positions, led by Michael Waltrip , who qualified 11th. He finished 10th at MIS in the June race.