MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jeff Gordon laughs at the notion that
sitting 14th in the point standings after five races means he's off
to a slow start, and he showed that he's doing just fine on Friday
by winning the pole at Martinsville Speedway.
"Yes, turn things around. It has been a terrible year," Gordon
said in jest Friday after turning a lap at 96.288 mph. "I don't
mind people saying, 'Hey, you are 14th in points. You aren't having
the type of year you had last year.' "
Gordon's lap on the 0.526-mile oval, the oldest, shortest and
trickiest in NASCAR's Spring Cup Series, easily beat Denny Hamlin
(95.757) for his seventh career Martinsville pole and the 65th of
his career, the fourth-best total in NASCAR history.
Gordon also has won seven times on the oval, tops among active
drivers, and hopes he can quiet the critics who say his Hendrick
Motorsports team is struggling.
"It bothers me when somebody says we aren't running good
because we have been running great," he said. "There is a big
difference in my opinion between running good and finishing good."
For Hamlin, finishing behind a Hendrick car was old news at
Martinsville, where he's made a habit of it.
"I'm usually the guy that runs right behind them it seems
like," Hamlin said. "I think maybe we're a little more prepared
for those guys this year, though. I think our cars are working a
little bit better and maybe their's aren't working as well as they
were last year at this time."
Jimmie Johnson, winner of the last three races at Martinsville,
will start 10th.
IRL transplant Sam Hornish Jr. was the top qualifying rookie,
securing the 26th spot with a lap at 94.637 mph, while fellow
former open wheel racers Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti
also made the race. Carpentier will start 37th, Franchitti 43rd.
Also in is Michael McDowell, who will make his first start in
the series in the No. 00 car that David Reutimann drove until this
week for Michael Waltrip's three-car Toyota team. Reutimann has
moved into the No. 44 that opened when Dale Jarrett retired.
McDowell will start 34th.