So much for slowing the cars.
NASCAR decreased horsepower and made other changes to try to decrease speeds, but nine drivers broke the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track record in the final Sprint Cup Series qualifying session Friday.
One of those was Jeff Gordon, who won the pole for Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. Kobalt 400, running 194.679 mph (27.738 seconds) over the 1½-mile tri-oval.
“I saw some lap times that were up there before us and knew that if we were going to sit on the pole, we were going to have to be fully committed to trying to go as close to wide open as possible,” Gordon said. “It was really, really close.
“I came off Turn 4 and felt really confidence that was either going to be close enough or good enough, and it was.”
Gordon, who drives the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet, won the pole for the first time in Las Vegas. He will be joined on the front row by Joey Logano, who ran 194.315 mph in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford.
Logano set the previous track record in qualifying last year, running 193.278 mph.
“We got really close” to Gordon, Logano said. “It’s definitely not lifting very much out there. Jeff definitely picked it up and had a very good lap there. We just weren’t able to beat that one.”
Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan, driving the Premium Motorsports No. 62 Chevy, will start last at 43rd. He qualified based on owner’s points.
■ PARTING GIFTS — Gordon, who is retiring after this season, was presented by LVMS with a blackjack table and large picture frame, each with several No. 24s and photos of him in racing action.
“I used to play a lot of blackjack, and I still play a little bit of blackjack,” Gordon said. “Then I really started playing a lot of poker. I realized, like most things that I do outside of racing, that I don’t get near enough time to practice them and build a real skill for it. As long as I don’t put my life savings on the table, then I enjoy it.”
He is receiving the Derek Jeter treatment as Gordon hits each track for the final time, barring a change in heart.
Gordon also made a little bit of news, saying he will meet with NASCAR next week regarding driver safety.
Las Vegan Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot in an Xfinity race two weeks ago in Daytona Beach, Fla. Gordon crashed Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway but wasn’t injured. Both drivers rammed into walls that weren’t protected by SAFER barriers.
“I’m looking forward to getting together with them to hear a little bit more detail in that progress,” Gordon said of adding SAFER barriers. “I don’t want to allude to too much because I have just enough details to get myself in trouble by bringing them up because I don’t have the full scope of it. I would prefer to have the full scope of it. I think that the most important thing is just to continue to see progress.
“The one thing that I would question is when did SAFER barriers start being put at racetracks and what was the plan for them to be complete and where are we in that plan. I was under the impression when they started going in (in 2002), it was going to be a three- or four-year plan to complete the SAFER barriers in every wall that needed to have a SAFER barrier. I don’t think anybody expected them to have SAFER barriers around every wall Day One. I think I’m realistic to know that they can’t just have it next week.”
■ SPONSOR RENEWALS — LVMS agreed to multiyear contracts with Lowe’s and the Stratosphere.
The agreement with Lowe’s means the Cup race will continue to be called the Kobalt 400, continuing a five-year relationship. The Stratosphere sponsors qualifying for the Cup race.
Contact Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.