Jeff Gordon beat Kyle Busch to pole position for Sunday's second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase round at Loudon.
Four-time champion Gordon had been second fastest in practice and was therefore the penultimate car to complete his qualifying run.
He improved on Joe Gibbs Racing driver Busch's previous benchmark by 33 thousandths of the second with a lap of 28.232 seconds.
Denny Hamlin, who had like looked the driver to beat heading into qualifying after topping practice, ended up a disappointing 32nd, worst among Chase contenders.
Gordon's second pole of the season comes following a poor start to his championship campaign, when he crashed due to a stuck throttle last week at Chicagoland Speedway's Chase opener.
"That was a great lap," said Gordon. "Started off kind of a tough day for us in race trim. We tried some things that weren't working too well for us, switched over to qualifying trim and immediately went to second on the board. But even at that we were quite a way behind [Hamlin].
"The car really did everything I asked for it to do in that run... This was a great one and certainly good timing."
Hamlin's JGR team-mate Kyle Busch will start second ahead of reigning champion Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip Racing's Brian Vickers, who returns to the #55 Toyota this week for his seventh outing of the season.
Five Chase contenders took positions 12th through 16th, with former Loudon winner Clint Bowyer leading the sequence in his #15 MWR Toyota.
Penske's Brad Keselowski, who leads the Chase after his Chicagoland win, was 15th behind Roush's Greg Biffle, Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr and ahead of Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick.
Jimmie Johnson, second in the play-off standings, was only 20th, having run the eighth fastest lap in practice.
Scott Speed was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 27th while David Stremme, Scott Riggs, Jason Leffler and Jeff Green initially failed to make the field.
However, Josh Wise had his times disallowed after officials found the gas pressure on the rear shocks exceeded the limit, losing his spot on the grid and allowing Stremme a place in the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.232s
2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.265s + 0.033s
3. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 28.304s + 0.072s
4. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota 28.322s + 0.090s
5. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.349s + 0.117s
6. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 28.386s + 0.154s
7. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.403s + 0.171s
8. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 28.438s + 0.206s
9. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 28.451s + 0.219s
10. Dave Blaney Penske Dodge 28.453s + 0.221s
11. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 28.455s + 0.223s
12. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 28.461s + 0.229s
13. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 28.499s + 0.267s
14. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 28.501s + 0.269s
15. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 28.506s + 0.274s
16. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 28.509s + 0.277s
17. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 28.516s + 0.284s
18. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.521s + 0.289s
19. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 28.573s + 0.341s
20. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 28.610s + 0.378s
21. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.614s + 0.382s
22. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.633s + 0.401s
23. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 28.645s + 0.413s
24. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.670s + 0.438s
25. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 28.681s + 0.449s
26. David Ragan Front Row Ford 28.698s + 0.466s
27. Scott Speed Leavine Ford 28.725s + 0.493s
28. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 28.733s + 0.501s
29. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.777s + 0.545s
30. Casey Mears Germain Ford 28.812s + 0.580s
31. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 28.870s + 0.638s
32. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.935s + 0.703s
33. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 28.977s + 0.745s
34. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 29.035s + 0.803s
35. Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Chevrolet 29.083s + 0.851s
36. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 29.111s + 0.879s
37. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 29.121s + 0.889s
38. Kelly Bires Go Green Ford 29.155s + 0.923s
39. Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 29.216s + 0.984s
40. JJ Yeley Max Q Chevrolet 29.247s + 1.015s
41. Tony Raines Baldwin Chevrolet 29.673s + 1.441s
42. Mike Olsen Front Row Ford 30.192s + 1.960s
43. David Stremme Inception Toyota 29.325s + 1.093s
Did not qualify:
Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 29.363s + 1.131s
Jason Leffler Robinson-Blakeney Toyota 29.366s + 1.134s
Jeff Green Humphrey Smith Toyota 29.469s + 1.237s
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 29.007s + 0.775s