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NASCAR At New Hampshire Qualifying: Jeff Gordon Claims Sylvania 300 Pole

If Jeff Gordon is to rebound from his 35th-place finish in last Sunday's Chase opener in Chicago, he has to win races. He's certainly getting his weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway off on the right foot, winning the pole for the Sylvania 300. It is Gordon's second pole - the first time since 2008 he's won multiple poles - and the 72nd of his career.

Kyle Busch - whom Gordon displaced with one car remaining to take the top spot - will start outside the front row. Tony Stewart, ranked third in the standings as he looks to defend his title, will start third on the grid as he looks to defend his Sylvania 300 triumph. Brian Vickers, making another of his limited starts with Michael Waltrip Racing, qualified fourth, while Carl Edwards completed the top-five.

Kasey Kahne was sixth, third behind Gordon Stewart among championship hopefuls. Paul Menard took seventh, while Ryan Newman was eighth. Martin Truex Jr., the fourth of four Chasers to crack the top-10, was ninth. Dave Blaney - qualifying and practicing the No. 22 Dodge for Sam Hornish Jr. while Hornish is in Kentucky running his Nationwide car - rounded out the top-10. Hornish will have to drop to the rear of the field Sunday, however, because of the driver change.

While only four championship challengers are in the front five rows, five of them in a row took positions 12-16. Clint Bowyer, a two-time winner of this race who ran out of gas to hand the lead to Stewart last year, holds that 12th spot. Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. come next, followed by Chicago winner and Sprint Cup point leader Brad Keselowski. Kevin Harvick rounds out the mini-group of Chasers in 16th.

Jimmie Johnson qualified a disappointing 20th, with Matt Kenseth 25th. The biggest surprise of the session was probably Denny Hamlin, who led practice after declaring earlier this week that he would win the race. To make good on that prediction, he will have to come from 32nd on the starting grid.

As far as Georgian drivers go, David Ragan was 26th. Reed Sorenson was ten spots worse in 36th. Truex's ninth-place effort in the NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored Toyota led the way for Atlanta-based companies. Joey Logano was 18th in the Home Depot ride.

David Stremme, Scott Riggs, Jason Leffler, and Jeff Green failed to qualify.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.