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Watkins Glen NASCAR: Jeff Gordon beats Marcos Ambrose to pole

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Chevrolet, Watkins Glen NASCAR 2014

Jeff Gordon claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position of 2014 at Watkins Glen, beating road course specialist Marcos Ambrose in the process.

The championship leader left it late in qualifying to bump his Australian rival from the top spot with a lap of 1m08.126 (129.466mph), putting Ambrose in a Hendrick sandwich with Jimmie Johnson starting in third.

Small consolation for the Richard Petty racer, however, is that he managed to beat his own record at the Glen in the first round of qualifying, having set a time of 1m08.113s.

Practice pacesetter Kevin Harvick joins Johnson on the second row and both start ahead of Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger, who has shown a good turn of speed throughout the weekend.

Last weekend's Pocono winner Dale Earnhardt Jr was the best part of half a second slower than his Hendrick team-mates at the top of the order and will begin seventh.

Matt Kenseth beat Brad Keselowski to eighth with a last-gasp lap, while Ryan Newman and Joey Logano were the final two drivers less than a second off the ultimate pace set by Gordon.

Logano was fortunate to enter the top 12 shootout for pole having damaged his front splitter in the first 30-minute round, but a quick fix by his Penske mechanics allowed him make further improvements and he denied Tony Stewart a final qualifying place in doing so.

The Stewart-Haas driver lines up 13th, while defending race winner Kyle Busch could only muster 19th.

Cup debutant Nelson Piquet Jr will start his first top tier race from 32nd.

The former Formula 1 driver has three NASCAR national series wins in his career, including one at a road course in the Nationwide Series at Road America in 2012, but a repeat of that at the Glen looks particularly improbable given that nobody has ever won there from a starting position outside the top 20.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                 Time       Gap
 1.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet       1m08.126s
 2.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford               1m08.299s  +0.173s
 3.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet       1m08.389s  +0.263s
 4.  Kevin Harvick       Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   1m08.447s  +0.321s
 5.  Kurt Busch          Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   1m08.470s  +0.344s
 6.  AJ Allmendinger     JTG Daugherty Chevrolet  1m08.531s  +0.405s
 7.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet       1m08.806s  +0.680s
 8.  Matt Kenseth        Joe Gibbs Toyota         1m08.810s  +0.684s
 9.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Ford              1m08.878s  +0.752s
10.  Ryan Newman         Childress Chevrolet      1m08.978s  +0.852s
11.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford              1m09.035s  +0.909s
12.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota           1m09.171s  +1.045s
13.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   1m08.796s  Round 1
14.  Jamie McMurray      Ganassi Chevrolet        1m08.836s  Round 1
15.  Justin Allgaier     HScott Chevrolet         1m08.892s  Round 1
16.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford        1m08.993s  Round 1
17.  Denny Hamlin        Joe Gibbs Toyota         1m09.024s  Round 1
18.  Cole Whitt          BK Toyota                1m09.060s  Round 1
19.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota         1m09.136s  Round 1
20.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet      1m09.137s  Round 1
21.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford        1m09.143s  Round 1
22.  Casey Mears         Germain Chevrolet        1m09.273s  Round 1
23.  Kyle Larson         Ganassi Chevrolet        1m09.280s  Round 1
24.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota           1m09.297s  Round 1
25.  Martin Truex Jr     Furniture Row Chevrolet  1m09.315s  Round 1
26.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford           1m09.316s  Round 1
27.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford               1m09.341s  Round 1
28.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford        1m09.344s  Round 1
29.  Michael McDowell    Leavine Ford             1m09.352s  Round 1
30.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet       1m09.442s  Round 1
31.  Austin Dillon       Childress Chevrolet      1m09.548s  Round 1
32.  Nelson Piquet       Humphrey Ford            1m09.605s  Round 1
33.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford           1m09.611s  Round 1
34.  Boris Said          Go FAS Ford              1m09.684s  Round 1
35.  Ryan Truex          BK Toyota                1m09.719s  Round 1
36.  Alex Bowman         BK Toyota                1m10.098s  Round 1
37.  Josh Wise           Parsons Chevrolet        1m10.242s  Round 1
38.  Alex Kennedy        Circle Sport Chevrolet   1m10.410s  Round 1
39.  Reed Sorenson       Baldwin Chevrolet        1m10.491s  Round 1
40.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota             1m10.503s  Round 1
41.  Landon Cassill      Hillman Chevrolet        1m10.568s  Round 1
42.  Michael Annett      Baldwin Chevrolet        1m10.571s  Round 1
43.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   1m10.585s  Round 1
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