The race to get into the Chase will start at the front of the field of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Three drivers in need of a win or strong finish to make this year’s 12-driver Chase field took the top three positions in qualifying on Friday, led by Jeff Gordon’s track record lap at 130.599 mph.
The pole is Gordon’s first of the season and 73rd of his Sprint Cup Series career.
Kurt Busch qualified second, Brad Keselowski was third, Clint Bowyer was fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth. Bowyer and Kenseth are already locked into the Chase.
“Qualifying has not been very good for me and my team this year. This one came at a good time,” Gordon said. “We can breathe a little bit easier now. There are so many things that will happen in this race and this is just step No. 1.”
Gordon enters the race 11th in the series standings, six points behind Busch, who is 10th. The Top 10 in points are guaranteed a spot in the Chase. Keselowski is 15th, 28 behind 10th.