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Jeff bumps the other Gordon from top spot

Jeff Gordon hopes his first pole of the season might temporarily silence his critics.

Friday, Gordon took the top qualifying spot for Sunday's Food City 500, setting a track record at 127.216 mph at Bristol Motor Speedway. It is his 40th pole and first since August.

Gordon, who won his fourth Winston Cup championship last season, is off to a slow start this year by his standards, with a seventh at Rockingham being his highest finish. He's sixth in points and has been dogged by questions about his struggles.

"Our pole right here might quiet some of that," said Gordon, who broke Steve Park's mark of 126.370 mph set in 2000. "Plus it helps our confidence and our own morale and it gives us a great boost. A win would also help. Winning fixes a lot of things."

Gordon, who gave car owner Rick Hendrick his first pole at Bristol since 1986, knocked Robby Gordon off the top spot.

Robby Gordon, who ran a 126.478, held first until Jeff Gordon went out as the 42nd of 43 cars and beat his speed, putting two Chevrolets on the front row.

"My guys were giving me a bunch of bull that he wanted it more than I did," Robby Gordon said. "I'm not going to live it down for at least another two weeks now."

The Gordons, who are not related, tangled on the track in the final laps of last season's finale in New Hampshire, then had words about the bump Robby put on Jeff to pass him. But they congratulated each other's qualifying efforts and brushed aside any thought of lingering animosity.

"Robby and I are fine," Jeff said. "I work hard at trying to put things like that behind me. We're going to race hard, we're going to bump, we're going to bang somewhere down the road."

Jeremy Mayfield and Jimmy Spencer qualified third and fourth in Dodges and were followed by Mike Skinner, Matt Kenseth, Jerry Nadeau, rookie Ryan Newman, Michael Waltrip and defending race winner Elliott Sadler.

Gordon, who has four wins at Bristol, said he believes a combination of poor qualifying efforts and the struggles of Chevrolet in general have slowed his start this season.

HELP FOR CHEVY: The Chevrolets got some aerodynamic help from NASCAR. Winston Cup will change its inspection process, effectively adding 1\ inches to the front of the Monte Carlos, starting with the April 5 race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The reference lines on the floor of NASCAR's inspection bay that are used to determine the length of the cars will be moved from 99 inches to 100\. Chevrolet teams have complained about a lack of downforce on the nose of their cars all season.

CHANNELLOCK 250: Rookie Scott Riggs had no trouble making his first trip around Bristol Motor Speedway, setting a record in qualifying for today's Busch Grand National race. Riggs ran a lap at 126.270 mph, earning his first pole and breaking the series record of 125.264 set by Kevin Harvick last season. Riggs edged Jeff Green (125.773), the driver Riggs replaced at ppc Racing after Green moved up to Winston Cup this season.

YAMAHA 400: Tomas Scheckter, the son of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, was fastest in practice for the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Fontana, Calif., turning a lap of 222.130 mph at the 2-mile California Speedway. He was driving teammate and team owner Eddie Cheever's car because of a mechanical problem with his car.