HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, both of whom qualified in the top five for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC) expressed diametrically opposite views of the importance of time trials at the 1.5-mile track.
Busch, who will start third as he attempts to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in his first visit to the Chase's Championship Round, was pleased with his qualifying performance, though he doesn't think starting position is particularly meaningful at the wide, multi-groove track.
"Qualifying position doesn't matter much here," Busch said after Friday's time trials. "I think with the opportunity that this racetrack presents of being able to move around -- bottom, middle, top, and be all over the race track -- I think you definitely have enough time here through 400 miles to work your way to the front.
"It's not a race track like last week at Phoenix or even Loudon or something like that where it's pretty single file, hard to pass. This place is good. So I don't know that qualifying position has anything to say about what kind of race we'll see on Sunday."
Gordon, however, feels that, when the track rubbers in and drivers start racing near the outside wall, the preferred groove will narrow.
"I disagree with Kyle," said Gordon, who recovered from a lackluster opening lap in the first round of knockout qualifying to earn the fifth starting spot. "I think qualifying here is important. There's nice multiple grooves, but I started on the pole here last year, and I know that that kept us in the game and up front in a big way.
"Of course, pit selection has a lot to do with that. But once the groove moves up top, it's kind of hard to pass. Even though there are multiple grooves, you've got to do it in the first couple laps. I think that that would not have been good had we not gotten qualifying in (because of the threat of rain), but we did, and I'm happy about it."
Gordon's joy at his strong qualifying effort would pale in comparison with a fifth series championship -- and first under a Chase format. It would also give Gordon the rare opportunity to retire at the pinnacle of the sport.
"I mean, that's life changing," Gordon said of the prospect. "It's something that. ... I mean, I'm sure it's been done in some sport, but I don't think it's ever been done in this sport. Right now, I'm not even thinking and fathoming that.
"I'm just really happy about how we qualified, so I'm hoping that we can take that fast race car and do some more with it (in Saturday's practice) and Sunday, and we'll see what happens. But that's too much for me to think about. ... It would be the best one I ever did -- I can tell you that."
DRIVER LINEUP FOR ROLEX 24 ANNOUNCED
The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway promises to be a monumental event for both Ford Motor Company and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
Against the backdrop of a newly completed Daytona Rising project -- featuring a spectacular makeover of the Birthplace of Speed -- the new Ford GT will make its competitive debut in the marquee endurance race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Ford GTs will complete in the full WeatherTech Championship schedule, as well as next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
American Joey Hand and German Dirk Muller will drive the No. 66 Ford GT in Ganassi's move to the GT Le Mans division. Australian Ryan Briscoe and Englishman Richard Westbrook will pilot the No. 67 Ford GT.
Racing aficionados will understand the significance of the car numbers, which relate directly to the predecessor of the new Ford GT -- the Ford GT-40, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 and 1967.
Additional drivers to fill out the teams for the 24-hour events will be announced later.
"I'm very proud to be part of this program," Hand said during the press conference introducing the drivers on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I always wanted to drive for Chip and I got the opportunity last year, and now to be with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is a big deal. Clearly, this is a big deal.
"This GT car is a great-looking car. Everybody seems to love it, and I think it's cool to see how Ford has kind of honored the history of the old GT-40 and now bringing the new technology of today. When you see the car it's cool-looking. It's got a great shape and great aerodynamic lines. It's gonna be a great race car for us and the testing has gone really well."
None of the four Championship Round drivers cracked the top five in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Saturday. Reigning champ Kevin Harvick struggled with the handling of his No. 4 Chevrolet during Happy Hour and was slowest of the four, 26th fastest overall, with a fast lap at 169.972 mph. ... Gordon was the fastest of the Championship 4 and ninth overall at 173.321 mph, followed closely by Martin Truex Jr. in 10th at 173.232 mph. Kyle Busch was 17th on the speed chart at 171.418 mph. ... Joey Logano, eliminated from the Chase last Sunday at Phoenix, paced the final practice session at 175.404 mph. Gordon, however, posted the fastest 10-lap average among all drivers.