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.
|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|