Gordon hoping pole streak continues in Sharpie 500



He won his sixth Bristol pole and he'll be trying for his sixth win today.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) -- Jeff Gordon counted out the five wins he has this season, then his five poles. It was an hour before qualifying, and Gordon set a goal for himself.
"I think I want to make it six and six this weekend," he said.
Gordon took the first step Friday, winning the pole for the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with a speed of 128.520 mph.
It was the 52nd pole of his career, series-best sixth this season, and put him in perfect contention for his -- you guessed it -- sixth Bristol victory.
Won in 2002
His last win here came in 2002, when he snapped his 31-race winless streak by winning the night race. Gordon celebrated that victory as if it was the first of his career.
"That was really spectacular for me," Gordon said. "It's a place that just surviving is one thing and to win is amazing. I love this track, it reminds me of the short track days, and I love putting these big heavy cars on it."
Gordon has proven to be a master at Bristol -- at least when it comes to qualifying. The No. 24 Chevrolet has started on the pole the past three night races and has been on the front row the last six events.
Rookie Kasey Kahne, who qualified second in the No. 9 Dodge with a lap of 127.410 mph, knows getting around Gordon on race night won't be easy.
"He has a knack for this place," Kahne said. "He is always very good at this place, and I think Jeff Gordon is just an excellent driver here.
"But I have an awesome car, and if it's that awesome in the race, I'll have a shot at it."
Tennessee native Sterling Marlin qualified third in a Dodge, his best starting position on his home track since 1997. But Marlin, who has never been to Bristol's Victory Lane and hasn't won at all since 2002, is more interested in his finishing position.
" It's one of my favorite tracks and hopefully we can get one of them big 'ol Bristol trophies," Marlin said. "Like I said, it's my home state and it's really important to do well here."
Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray qualified fourth and fifth in a pair of Dodges, and Tony Stewart was sixth in a Chevrolet. Mark Martin, Elliott Sadler, Jeremy Mayfield and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.
Johnson may start last
Jimmie Johnson, who lost the points lead last week to Gordon after his third-straight DNF, qualified 11th. But he wrecked the No. 48 Chevrolet in the second practice session and his team was taking out the backup car to prepare. If he uses it, he'll have to go to the back of the field at the start of the race.
Nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace, who is expected to announce Monday that 2005 will be his last, was 13th.
Kurt Busch, winner of the past three Bristol races, qualified 24th.
Bristol will be a critical race in setting the participants for NASCAR's 10-race playoff. There are just three races until the field is set, and teams are scrambling to make the cutoff. Only drivers within the top 10 in the standings, and anyone within 400 points of the leader will be eligible.
Gordon is safely into the chase. But most of the guys starting behind him aren't, beginning with Kahne, who has a slight hold on the 10th spot.
Right behind him are Newman, McMurray, Martin and Mayfield -- all of whom are racing hard to get in.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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