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Raceday: Your guide to Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/18/00/G618j.Em.138.jpeg|190
    Mel Evans - AP
    Jeff Gordon (24) drives during a qualifying session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen N.Y. Gordon qualified on the pole for Sunday's race.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/18/00/1jjcpj.Em.138.jpeg|204
    Mel Evans - AP
    Dale Earnhardt Jr., left, and Boris Said talk on pit row before a Saturday qualifying session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen N.Y.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/09/18/00/1eVNvo.Em.138.jpeg|445
    Mel Evans - AP
    Jeff Gordon stands in the garage area before practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen N.Y.

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Gordon continues roll, wins pole at the Glen

Jeff Gordon holds the record for most road course wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but his last victory at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International came in 2001.

He’ll have an excellent opportunity to change that in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen starting from the pole.

Marcos Ambrose set a track qualifying record in Round 1 (129.491 mph) on Saturday but Gordon’s average lap at 129.466 mph was enough to top Ambrose in Round 2.

“I’m pumped, this gives us a lot of confidence. I think today does make a statement,” said Gordon, who has now won at least one pole for the 22nd consecutive season and won the 75th of his career.

“We didn’t do too much in qualifying runs. Just the way we struggled here in the last couple years. This has been one of our toughest tracks, then to start the weekend off with a pole. Heck after today, I believe anything is possible.”

Jimmie Johnson qualified third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.

Notebook

Mixed news on sponsor front: While Hendrick Motorsports was informed this week the Army National Guard would not return as a sponsor next season, the organization did sign an extension with AARP’s Drive to End Hunger program to continue to sponsor Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 team through the 2015 season.

The sponsorship for Gordon, however, will encompass 13 races in 2015, down from this season’s 22.

Also, JTG Daugherty Racing announced it has signed a three-year contract extension with Kimberly-Clark to continue sponsoring its No. 47 team and A.J. Allmendinger through the 2017 season.

Patrick off to bad start: It’s been a tough start to the weekend for Danica Patrick. She missed a shift in first practice Friday and had to change engines in her No. 10 Chevrolet. Then minutes before the conclusion of Friday’s second practice, she slammed into the tire barrier, which required her team to bring out a backup car.

Having to start from the rear of the field in Sunday’s race anyway, Patrick elected to run practice laps in her backup car during Saturday’s qualifying session since the car had not yet been on the track this weekend.

Heckert wins K&N East race: Scott Heckert got past then-leader Andrew Ranger and second-place Cole Custer on the restart of a two-lap overtime to win Friday’s Bully Hill Vineyards 125 at the Glen. It was Heckert’s first win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 27 career starts.


Three things to watch

1 Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have been in the mix for the win at the Glen the past three seasons. Don’t expect that to change.

2 Jeff Gordon has won a NASCAR-record nine times on road courses but hasn’t won at the Glen since 2001.

3 It’s crunch time for the Chase. Only five races remain and there are 11 of 16 spots field. Win and you’re in.


Observations

•  Saturday was the first time this season ESPN has had the opportunity to broadcast Cup series qualifying, and it did so just as it has done in the Nationwide series, which was a truly live broadcast. When Fox has broadcast the new qualifying format this season, it has put a premium on showing all of the on-track action during the qualifying sessions. It’s a laudable goal, but the end result has been a broadcast which ends up being 15 to 20 minutes behind live action, which drives fans on social media crazy. Yes, you miss some on-track action with the ESPN version, but in 2014 fans have come to expect ‘live’ broadcasts of sporting events in real time.

•  Two very different tracks have been taken by the teams of IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in response to the Army National Guard’s decision to end motorsports sponsorships at the conclusion of the 2014 season. No one is familiar with the details of each team’s agreement with the Guard, but with headlines filled these days with stories of poor veteran care and continued problems in Iraq and elsewhere around the world, trying to hold the Guard to a contract it clearly is not going to pay may not be the best public relations move.

•  Clearly Jeff Gordon seems to be relishing his success this season, and it’s likely helped in large part that he is able to enjoy it through the eyes of his family. The last time Gordon won a championship (2001), he was not yet married to his current wife, Ingrid, nor had either of his children, Ella and Leo been born.


Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick

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