Jeff Gordon wins 200th pole for Hendrick; Harvick qualifies 5th, leads Champ. 4

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A fifth Sprint Cup championship may not be in the cards for Jeff Gordon this year, but he’s secured one more bit of history for his team.

Gordon captured the 200th Sprint Cup pole position in Hendrick Motorsports history tonight at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a final round lap of 180.747 mph. He and Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday in the Ford Ecoboost 400.

Last week at Phoenix, Gordon was eliminated from the Chase following Ryan Newman’s last-lap shove of Kyle Larson for 11th place.

That move gave Newman the last spot in the Championship 4 by one point over Gordon, but the former Rainbow Warrior is now zeroing in on finishing the season strong.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on the pole here, number one, and to get the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports is very cool,” Gordon told ESPN. “I think the way we’re looking at this weekend is we want to finish the season off the absolute best that we can. It’s been a tremendous season for us. This 24 team has been incredible this year.

“We’re disappointed we’re not in this thing for the championship, but that’s not gonna stop us from trying to go out and win the race.”

Meanwhile, the Championship 4 had mixed fortunes in qualifying. Kevin Harvick led the quartet by qualifying fifth, while former teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano will start eighth and ninth respectively. But the winless Newman will have to rally from 21st.

Harvick said that driveability was now the main focus for him leading into Sunday’s title decider.

“This is going to be a race where you go through some changing conditions,” he said. “Today was really just about trying to get a solid starting spot and we were able to do that with our Budweiser team.”

As for Hamlin, he said that his long-run speed helped him be able to make it to the final round.

“To have an extra cycle on our tires and still be that close is very encouraging,” he said. “It’s been a great day so far…The car’s feeling really good, so we’ll see what we got.”

Logano was able to make a big improvement from his mid-pack showing in today’s afternoon practice, something that he was grateful for.

“It’s a good recovery from where we were in practice,” he said. “We’ve just got to try and keep speed in the car a little longer in qualifying but we have all off-season to figure that part out. We’ll try to figure out the race now.”

Newman said that a tight condition going into the corner hampered him, but that he wasn’t worried about his qualifying result.

“A buddy of mine once said, ‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you stop,'” he said. “We’ve got half of ’em beat to start. We’ll keep digging with the Caterpillar Chevrolet.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami – Ford Ecoboost 400
Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Race
Qualifying Results

1. 24-Jeff Gordon
2. 41-Kurt Busch
3. 20-Matt Kenseth
4. 2-Brad Keselowski
5. 4-Kevin Harvick
6. 15-Clint Bowyer
7. 18-Kyle Busch
8. 11-Denny Hamlin
9. 22-Joey Logano
10. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
11. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. 48-Jimmie Johnson
13. 55-Brian Vickers
14. 51-Justin Allgaier
15. 99-Carl Edwards
16. 27-Paul Menard
17. 9-Marcos Ambrose
18. 43-Aric Almirola
19. 1-Jamie McMurray
20. 16-Greg Biffle
21. 31-Ryan Newman
22. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. 5-Kasey Kahne
24. 3-Austin Dillon
25. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
26. 21-Trevor Bayne
27. 42-Kyle Larson
28. 14-Tony Stewart
29. 13-Casey Mears
30. 33-Brian Scott
31. 34-David Ragan
32. 10-Danica Patrick
33. 40-Landon Cassill
34. 83-J.J. Yeley
35. 38-David Gilliland
36. 36-Reed Sorenson
37. 98-Josh Wise
38. 95-Michael McDowell
39. 7-Michael Annett
40. 32-Blake Koch
41. 23-Alex Bowman
42. 26-Cole Whitt
43. 66-Brett Moffitt

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?