Gordon helps his bid for big finish with pole

Saturday, October 18, 2003

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Four-time champion Jeff Gordon is looking at a more modest goal with only five races left in the 2003 season.

"We're within striking distance of second place," Gordon said Friday, minutes before winning the pole for the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

He goes into Sunday's 500-lap event on the .526-mile oval sixth in the season standings and riding a string of five straight fifth-place finishes.

"I think our realistic goals are to try to get back in the top five and take a shot at second," Gordon said.

Gordon is 407 points behind Winston Cup series leader Matt Kenseth but only 140 behind runner-up Kevin Harvick.

"We just have to keep digging," Gordon said. "I think we've put a team out there good enough to win the championship and just haven't had the results.

"That's nobody's fault but ours," he added. "But just a few things have happened that didn't help us stay near the top."

Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet turned a fast lap of 93.650 mph on Friday, giving him his fourth pole of the season, second in a row on Martinsville's paperclip shaped oval and the 46th of his career.

The pole start in April led to Gordon's only win of the season.

"I was pretty excited when I saw how good the car was here when it came off the truck," Gordon said. "We didn't test here like a lot of the other teams and we hoped a few little things we've learned all year would step us up a notch. That's what happened."

Ward Burton, making his final start for Bill Davis Racing before moving to Haas CNC Racing, was second in qualifying at 92.180 in the No. 22 Dodge.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., trailing Harvick by just 57 points in the standings, qualified third at 93.015, followed by Kenny Wallace at 92.851 and Harvick at 92.851.

Ryan Newman, leading the series with eight victories this season and coming off a second-place finish last week at Charlotte, was eighth at 92.787, right behind Penske Racing teammate Rusty Wallace's 92.796.

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