DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jeff Gordon won a highstakes game of “Beat the Clock” on Sunday, with the pole for his final Daytona 500 the ultimate prize.
Gordon crossed the start/finish line to start his pole-winning lap as time expired in the final round of knockout qualifying at Daytona International Speedway.
His time of 44.711 seconds (201.293 mph) was .035 seconds better than that of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who secured the outside front-row starting spot for next Sunday’s 57th running of the Great American Race (1 p.m. ET on FOX).
The first use of group knockout qualifying at Daytona, under a format introduced at Talladega last fall, determined only the two front-row starting positions for the 500. However, the next four fastest drivers — with speeds counted from any of the three qualifying rounds — also locked themselves into the field, with specific starting positions to be determined after Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel at Daytona (7 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).