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Earnhardt wins Richmond pole

Sept. 7, 2012 at 8:57 PM   |   Comments

RICHMOND, Va., Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. edged Jeff Gordon Friday to win the pole for Saturday's running of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

It was the first pole for Earnhardt since the 2011 Daytona 500. He earned the top qualifying spot Friday by running a lap of 127.023 miles per hour.

Earnhardt is second in the season-long points standings and is guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the 10-race playoff series that will begin next week in Chicago. He ended a 143-race winless streak in June at Michigan.

"I've not really been the best of qualifiers the last couple of years," Earnhardt said. "We have a lot of improvements we've made this year. It feels good to get a pole."

Gordon, one of eight drivers battling for the two remaining positions in the Chase, produced a lap of 126.981 mph. Regan Smith qualified third, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin.

Denny Hamlin, who has won the last two stops on the Sprint Cup circuit in Bristol, Tenn., and Atlanta, qualified seventh.

Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch are in the best position to capture the final two qualifying spots. Kahne will start 21st and Busch 15th.

In addition to Earnhardt, the drivers who have qualified for the Chase include points leader Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Kaselowski, Hamlin, Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart.

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