5-4-07 - Jeff Gordon's rolled to his third consecutive NASCAR Nextel Cup pole position Friday, and former series champion Dale Jarrett was among those headed home as Toyota teams again struggled to compete.
Gordon, a four-time series champion, will start on the pole for the fourth consecutive week -- he started first as the series points leader when qualifying was rained out a Texas -- and for the fifth time in six races. He's also won two races in a row, and has opened a 203-point lead over second-place Jeff Burton after nine races.
``I'm kind of blown away right now with the roll that we're on,'' Gordon said.
Jarrett was blown away, too, by almost everyone. His Toyota finished 47th among the 50 cars attempting to make the field, with a fast lap at just 123.226 mph.
The 1999 champion, who used up his last past champion's provisional last week at Talladega, missed a race for the first time since 1994 in North Wilkesboro, N.C.
``It's tough, no doubt about it,'' the 50-year-old driver said while walking to his hauler. ``You've got to be on top of your game to race out here at this day and time.''
Especially the way Gordon is running these days in his Car of Tomorrow Impala, or his Monte Carlo. The next fasted qualifier was Carl Edwards in a Ford at 125.657 mph.
``I don't know what it is,'' Gordon said. ``All I know is everything I'm doing, I'm not going to stop doing it. We've been on some good rolls over the years -- it's been a long time, obviously -- and as competitive as the series is today, it surprises me when somebody gets on this type of a roll. I don't know how to describe or explain it.''
Edwards has yet to finish in the top 10 in a COT race -- his best was 11th at Phoenix -- and was elated even before he knew he would start on the front row.
``That's a great big step for us,'' he said. ``It's so much fun when it's going well and so frustrating when it's not, so, hopefully it's a good start.''
Scott Riggs qualified third in a Dodge, followed by the Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne in another Dodge. The rest of the top 10 includes the Chevys of Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex and Mark Martin, and Dave Blaney's Toyota.
A.J. Allmendinger (13th), David Reutimann (14th) and Johnny Benson (31st) also made the race in Toyotas, while Jarrett, Michael Waltrip and Jeremy Mayfield did not.
The field also will include Virginian Ward Burton for just the fifth time in 10 races, and his brother, Jeff, who was 43rd fastest but got in with a provisional.
Ken Schrader of the Wood Brothers, another Virginia team, also failed to make the race for the second week in a row. They hadn't missed one before last week since 2000.
Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 will be the fourth race in which teams use the Car of Tomorrow, and early signs point to another good night for Hendrick Motorsports.
The teams have won the first three COT events, with Kyle Busch, Gordon and Johnson all winning one, and Gordon said he's felt good about his COT program from the start.
``I think maybe the Car of Tomorrow fits my driving style a little bit more than the current car,'' he said, ``but we've done our homework, and it's certainly paying off.''