Gordon takes the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR race

Published 4:07 am Sunday, November 12, 2006

AVONDALE, Ariz. — The honeymoon in the desert continued for Jeff Gordon, who won the pole Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

The four-time series champion married Belgian model Ingrid Vandebosch in Mexico on Tuesday, then brought his new bride to the race track to help him celebrate the 56th pole of his career. He turned a lap of 134.464 mph in his Chevrolet to take the top starting spot for Sunday’s race.

“It’s been a great week, I’ll tell you that,” Gordon said. “The vibe has been carrying on through the weekend. I hope it carries on a lot longer than that, too.

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“Life is good, at the same time, so is the race team.”

Gordon is hoping to repeat the success he had earlier this year when he announced his engagement to Vandebosch in Sonoma, Calif., and then won the Nextel Cup race the next day. But at sixth in the standings, 157 points out, he isn’t thinking about a Nextel Cup championship.

Instead, Gordon just wants the win. “We have less pressure on us than the top three or four guys,” Gordon said. “It’s all about winning for us, whether its the race or the championship. We know mathematically we’re not out of it, but those other guys will have to have problems at the same time.”

Kevin Harvick, who won the race here in April, qualified second after posting a lap of 133.973 mph in his Chevrolet.

“We feel really good,” Harvick said. “Obviously everybody has made a lot of gains since the first race here, but we feel like we’ve made some gains, too.”

Brian Vickers qualified third, and was followed by Chase for the championship contender Dale Earnhardt Jr. Joe Nemechek rounded out the top five. Jimmie Johnson, who holds a 17-point lead in the standings, was the worst qualifier among Chase competitors — he’ll start 29th.

Matt Kenseth, who is second in the standings, will start 10th.

The other Chase contenders starting spots were: Kyle Busch (ninth), Kasey Kahne (11th), Jeff Burton (18th), Mark Martin (21st) and Denny Hamlin (22nd).