DOVER, Del. (AP) – Jeff Gordon felt like a rookie.

In one of those hard-to-believe stats except for maybe the most diehard Gordon fans, the four-time NASCAR champion had gone 47 races without a pole – the longest drought of his career.

All it took was a trip to top sponsor DuPont’s backyard to put him back on top. Gordon took the top spot with a lap of 156.162 mph Friday at Dover International Speedway, his first pole since June 24, 2005, on the road course at Sonoma.

“It feels like my first pole ever,” Gordon said. “When it goes by for a while, you feel like you lost that magic touch or that combination that it took to get on poles.”

Gordon is fourth in the points standings heading into the second race of NASCAR’s 10-man Chase for the Nextel Cup championship. Maybe a new chassis for the No. 24 Chevrolet this weekend helped him.

“(It’s) really the best car we have out there right now for this type of race track,” he said.

Other than Gordon, it wasn’t really a strong qualifying effort for the other nine drivers in the Chase. Series leader Kevin Harvick will start 25th. Matt Kenseth enters third and will start third. Mark Martin was the only other driver in the top-10 of the points standings (sixth) who will start on the first five rows (ninth).

Kyle Busch, the last of the 10 in the standings, was all the way back in 27th place.

Joining Gordon on the front row will be Scott Riggs, who went 156.060 to take second. Kenseth and Ryan Newman, who won the pole here in June, completed the second row.

However, Riggs said he damaged his engine in the No. 10 Dodge after he revved it too much. He’ll likely have to change the engine, which would force him to start in the rear of the field.

“I made a mistake there and missed a shift coming through the gears, so we’ll probably have to change engines,” he said. “Starting second would sound good to us, but we’ll get a good pit selection and we’ll have to work our way from the back to the front row.”

Gordon, who complained Friday that Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers was too aggressive and cost him time in New Hampshire, won his 55th career pole to tie Bill Elliott for sixth on the career list. Gordon has won a pole for 14 straight seasons.

“I can name a long list of reasons why it’s so special right now,” said Gordon, who missed the 2005 Chase. “Obviously with the Chase, having momentum is good.”

Gordon started third at Richmond two weeks ago and second at New Hampshire last week.

“We got this Chase started off right with a good finish and a good qualifying effort last week,” Gordon said. “And no matter where we end up, this is a great way to get this weekend started.”

Rookie Denny Hamlin, who trails Harvick by 35 points in the standings, will start 23rd in the Dover 400.

Gordon, who’s won four times on the Monster Mile, has eight top-10 finishes in his last 13 races and hoped that consistency would carry over into the final nine races of the Chase and into a championship.

“You’ve got 10 races and the most consistent team, I think, is going to win the championship,” he said.


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