Watkins Glen, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeff Gordon will start on the pole for Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen after beating Marcos Ambrose in qualifying at Watkins Glen International.
Gordon, the current points leader and four-time race winner at Watkins Glen, turned a lap at 129.466 mph during the second and final round of Saturday's knockout qualifying for his first pole of the season. Three of his 75 career poles in the Sprint Cup Series have come at this 2.45-mile, 7-turn road course in Upstate New York.
"I am so proud of this pole, and the effort the this [No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports] team put in this weekend, as well as that lap," Gordon said. "Qualifying has really been what has been hurting us a Watkins Glen, and I blame myself really.
"I'm so happy that I got three shots at it today. I really think that made the big difference. The first lap I did okay, but I got held up a little coming back to the checkered. The second one was a really good lap and got us into the top-12. I just tried to do the same things in that last lap. [Crew chief] Alan [Gustafson] made a slight adjustment. I thought it was about the same as what I ran before, I didn't think it was going to be that much better. Wow what a lap."
Gordon won three consecutive races at Watkins Glen from 1997-99. His most recent victory here occurred in 2001. The four-time series champion has two wins this season -- Kansas and Indianapolis.
Ambrose, who won back-to-back Sprint Cup races at this track from 2011-12, posted a lap at 129.138 mph during the second round, which earned him the outside pole. He had the quickest lap in the first round at 129.491 mph, which set a new track qualifying record here.
"It has been a great weekend for us so far," Ambrose said. "I wish Jeff was a little kinder to me to let me get the pole. I thought we had it at the end, but it wasn't enough. It was a pretty good lap, though, and I will take it. You have to be happy with front row starts."
One year ago, Ambrose established a new record at Watkins Glen with a lap at 128.241 mph. It's the 16th time this season that a new track record has been set in the series.
Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion and Gordon's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, qualified third at 128.968 mph.
Kevin Harvick took the fourth spot, followed by Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won last weekend's race at Pocono, and Matt Kenseth.
Qualifying ninth through 12th were: Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Brian Vickers.
Among those drivers who failed to advance into the second round of qualifying were: Tony Stewart (qualified 13th), Carl Edwards (16th), Denny Hamlin (17th), Kyle Busch (19th), rookie Kyle Larson (23rd), Clint Bowyer (24th), Greg Biffle (28th), Kasey Kahne (30th) and rookie Austin Dillon (31st). Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.
Danica Patrick, who has to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change, used qualifying as a practice session. On Friday, Patrick blew an engine during the first practice session and then crashed during the second and final practice, forcing her to a backup car. She placed last in the 43-car field in qualifying. Patrick ran 11 laps.