Marriage is working wonders for Jeff Gordon. Three days after tying the knot to Belgian model Ingrid Vandebosch in a private ceremony in Mexico, Gordon took time off from his honeymoon in Avondale on Friday to capture the pole for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
“It's been a really spectacular week and now the honeymoon is continuing here at Phoenix this weekend,” the four-time NASCAR Cup champion said.
His lap of 26.499 seconds at 134.464 mph was good enough to edge Kevin Harvick (26.871, 133.973), April's Subway Fresh 500 winner at PIR.
“Obviously he wasn't laying back and taking it easy,” Harvick said of Gordon's top run. “He was on the gas today.”
Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers qualified third (26.876, 133.949) and he'll start next to Dale Earnhardt Jr. (26.932, 133.670) on the second row.
It was Gordon's 56th career pole in 472 Cup races, sixth most all time. Gordon also won the pole for PIR's first-ever night race in 2005, but he's 0-for-15 as far as wins at the mile oval.
And he'll need a win if he's going to make up any ground in race No. 9 in the 10-race Chase for the championship. He's in sixth place, 157 points behind teammate Jimmie Johnson, who holds a 17-point lead over Roush Racing's Matt Kenseth.
Though his title hopes are nearly gone, Gordon said he'll keep plugging. “We know it's going to take us having a perfect couple of races and those other guys are going to have to have some problems at the same time,” he said.
Gordon's good fortunes at the track began when he drew a spot late in Friday's qualifying order. The cooler track in the late afternoon usually provides better traction through the corners for those late in the qualifying order.
He was the 37th of 51 drivers to qualify, but his beneficial late draw nearly cost him. The setting sun in Turn 1 blinded the driver and he overshot the corner. He recovered and on the second lap “I felt I hit my marks pretty good. The car just did everything I wanted it to do.”
Gordon had to wait out potential pole stealers Greg Biffle (49th) and Harvick (51st) before claiming the top spot.
Johnson qualified the worst of the 10 Chase drivers. He'll start 29th on Sunday. Kenseth qualified 10th.
During Friday's post-qualifying press conference, Gordon wouldn't offer many details of his surprise marriage. That's because he sold exclusive rights to his wedding story to US Weekly magazine.
Before Friday's practice sessions, he did offer some insight into his new bride, who has appeared in such magazines as Glamour and Vogue. “Yes, she's glamorous, but she's very down to earth if you ever get to know her,” Gordon said. “She's shy. ... She's very sweet and very loyal and just a great, great person.”
Gordon said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick attended the ceremony. “It's been a great week, I can tell you that,” Gordon said. “So the vibe has just been carrying on through the weekend, and I hope it carries on longer than that.”