Luckless Jeff Gordon enters Sonoma as early race favorite

Jeff Gordon speaks to the media last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gordon qualified second for Sunday's Toyota Save Mart 250. (Matt Weaver/NASCAR Ranting and Raving)

There is every reason to believe that Jeff Gordon's string of bad luck will end on Sunday, allowing him to join his Hendrick Motorsport teammates as a winner in the 2012 Sprint Cup season.

Now that the dust has settled on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s return to victory lane, all eyes shift to the rolling hills of Sonoma - a road course. When going through a list of favorites, only one name seems remotely plausible - Jeff Gordon.

It must seem crazy, right? After all, the four-time champion has yet to cross 'falling meteors' and 'locusts" off his race win-negating bingo card. The bad luck has to run out at some point and Sonoma seems as logical a choice as any entering this Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Sound crazy? Here's the reasoning.

Jeff Gordon is the active wins leader at road courses, winning nine times in 38 starts, including four at Sonoma. While he hasn't won there since 2006, Gordon hasn't finished out of the top-10 since.

He has recent success too, finishing second to Kurt Busch in last year's race. Gordon was the fastest car on the track in the closing laps but simply ran out of time.

Conventional wisdom says this sort of bad luck can't last forever. The summer schedule features some of Gordon's most successful tracks including Sonoma, Daytona, Indianapolis, Pocono and Watkins Glen. Gordon's running out of time to save his season but Brad Keselowski's impressive summer last year set precedence. Gordon can make the Chase. He can even crack the top-10 but the consistency has to start with wins.

Recognizing the opportunity that Sonoma represents, Gordon wasted no time tossing the gauntlet. In practice, Gordon clocked-in at 1:15.653, easily the fastest car in the session. He backed that up in qualifying, and was on pace to take the pole until the final two corners.

"I knew it was a better lap than what we had in practice," Gordon said. "But I felt like there were some areas where I left a little bit. If you had to do it all over again, I'd love to take these segments and try to do them again, (but) all in all, I'm very happy."

Is this the race where Gordon finally gets back on track?

"I'm really pleased with the car right now," Gordon said. "It was doing a lot of the things that you need it to in order to have a good race car. Hopefully, we can back that up on Sunday."

Gordon set the goal, now it's time for the four-time champion to execute.

Complete qualifying results can be found after the jump.

#WeWantRightTurns

Qualifying Results
24th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350
Provided by NASCAR Statistics - Fri, June 22, 2012 @ 08:27 PM Eastern
Track Qualifying Record: Rusty Wallace 06/25/00 72.1385 99.309
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed Fastest Next
1 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford 75.203 95.262 0.000 0.000
2 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 75.357 95.067 0.154 0.154
3 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 75.574 94.795 0.371 0.217
4 16 Greg Biffle 3M / US Stationary Ford 75.632 94.722 0.429 0.058
5 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 75.661 94.686 0.458 0.029
6 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota 75.666 94.679 0.463 0.005
7 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 75.704 94.632 0.501 0.038
8 51 Kurt Busch Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet 75.764 94.557 0.561 0.060
9 17 Matt Kenseth Ford EcoBoost Ford 75.790 94.524 0.587 0.026
10 39 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans / Children's Tumor Foundation Chevrolet 75.802 94.509 0.599 0.012
11 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford 75.807 94.503 0.604 0.005
12 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet 75.955 94.319 0.752 0.148
13 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge 75.995 94.269 0.792 0.040
14 20 Joey Logano The Home Depot Toyota 76.044 94.209 0.841 0.049
15 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 76.046 94.206 0.843 0.002
16 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota 76.052 94.199 0.849 0.006
17 22 AJ Allmendinger Shell Pennzoil Dodge 76.064 94.184 0.861 0.012
18 47 Bobby Labonte Clorox Toyota 76.129 94.103 0.926 0.065
19 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard / 7-Eleven Chevrolet 76.192 94.026 0.989 0.063
20 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford 76.220 93.991 1.017 0.028
21 55 Brian Vickers RKMotorsCharlotte.com Toyota 76.254 93.949 1.051 0.034
22 95 Scott Speed Leavine Family Racing Ford 76.283 93.913 1.080 0.029
23 27 Paul Menard Menards / Moen Chevrolet 76.343 93.840 1.140 0.060
24 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / MOBIL 1 Chevrolet 76.356 93.824 1.153 0.013
25 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 76.431 93.732 1.228 0.075
26 29 Kevin Harvick Rheem Chevrolet 76.434 93.728 1.231 0.003
27 38 David Gilliland 1-800-LoanMart Ford 76.601 93.524 1.398 0.167
28 32 Boris Said HendrickCars.com Ford 76.811 93.268 1.608 0.210
29 34 David Ragan Green 1 High Performance Green Ford 76.895 93.166 1.692 0.084
30 43 Aric Almirola Medallion Ford 76.906 93.153 1.703 0.011
31 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row / Farm American Chevrolet 76.979 93.064 1.776 0.073
32 36 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet 77.062 92.964 1.859 0.083
33 98 David Mayhew Phil Parsons Racing Ford 77.171 92.833 1.968 0.109
34 7 Robby Gordon MAPEI / Save Mart Supermarkets Dodge 77.396 92.563 2.193 0.225
35 31 Jeff Burton Wheaties Chevrolet 77.483 92.459 2.280 0.087
36 87 Joe Nemechek(i) AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota 77.751 92.140 2.548 0.268
37 19 Chris Cook Humphrey Smith Racing Toyota 77.805 92.076 2.602 0.054
38 49 JJ Yeley America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents Toyota 77.931 91.927 2.728 0.126
39 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota 78.009 91.836 2.806 0.078
40 26 Josh Wise # MDS Transport Ford 78.100 91.729 2.897 0.091
41 33 Stephen Leicht # LittleJoesAutos.com Chevrolet 78.136 91.686 2.933 0.036
42 30 Brian Simo Inception Motorsports Toyota 78.658 91.078 3.455 0.522
43 10 Tomy Drissi Ice Age Continental Drift Chevrolet 79.091 90.579 3.888 0.433
44 83 Landon Cassill Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota 80.187 89.341 4.984 1.096
*Required to qualify on time, OP - Top 35 in Owner Points, PC - Past Champion,(i)Ineligible for driver points in this series
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