BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Jeff Gordon is getting a little tired of talking about his slump.
He can avoid further explanations by winning the Sharpie 500, where he'll start from the pole Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Should he make it to the winner's circle, it would end his 31-race winless streak -- the longest since Gordon needed 42 starts to earn his first Winston Cup victory.
"It seems like it's been 10 years since I've been in here," Gordon said as he sat down at the podium in the media center after qualifying Friday. "What a great way to start the weekend off.
"We were really psyched about coming here to Bristol because it has been a great track for us. But I'd like to win anywhere and as much as you guys like to write about me not winning, I think you'd rather like to write about me winning."
For now, he'll have to settle for his pole, which he earned by turning a lap in the No. 24 Chevrolet at 124.034 mph. It was the third pole of the season for the four-time and defending Winston Cup champion, who also took the top spot here in the spring and also at Martinsville Speedway -- meaning all three of his best efforts came on short tracks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified second with a lap at 123.937. Michael Waltrip qualified third in a Chevy, the second straight race the Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates have had strong qualifying runs. Earnhardt and Waltrip qualified first and second last weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
"We've really kind of worked together really well the last two or three weeks," Earnhardt said. "We're starting to utilize a lot of resources with the other teams that we have and it's starting to pay off."
It was the second top-three sweep for the Chevys, which took the top five spots in qualifying last weekend.
Rusty Wallace broke up the domination by qualifying his Ford fourth and Bill Elliott was fifth in a Dodge. Johnny Benson qualified his Pontiac sixth and was followed by Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch, Ward Burton and Matt Kenseth.
Tony Stewart, the defending race winner, qualified 26th. Points leader Sterling Marlin was 27th.
Gordon, meanwhile, could hardly stop smiling after his qualifying effort.
It marked the first time in the past six races that Gordon has earned a top-10 start. Gordon hasn't led a lap in any of those races, the first time in his Winston Cup career he's gone six straight races without running first.
"We've been through a lot lately, we haven't qualified very good," Gordon said. "We need a little momentum, something to get excited about. We normally qualify much better than we have lately and we've been fighting back from behind."
Starting up front is crucial on Bristol's half-mile bullring because fighting through traffic on the high banks and tight turns is never easy.
Gordon knows that from experience -- he's got four victories here, but none in the summer's night race. He was strong here last August, leading 199 laps before fading to a third-place finish.
And he was just as good in the spring race here, but took himself out of contention when he spun out while running up front.
"We always run good in the race. If I just don't spin out I think I'll be all right," he said. "We were so strong here in the night race the last time we were here. We were strong the last race here, and it's Bristol. I love Bristol.
"We've won races here, we're very good here, but it is Bristol. A lot can happen, you've got to survive. We're just going to try to dot our Is and cross our Ts and see what we can come up with."
Da Matta on top again
MONTREAL (AP) -- Cristiano da Matta was disappointed when he drove a rental car around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve just to scope out CART's newest venue.
"It didn't look like it did on television," he said. "It didn't look as nice. Then, when we got out today in the Champ car, it looked like it did on TV."
It must have looked good enough to da Matta, who guaranteed himself another front-row start by winning the provisional pole Friday for the inaugural Montreal Molson-Indy.
The CART series leader earned another championship point and is now ahead of Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira by 43 points. He can add one more in final qualifying Saturday.
"When the car is working good, it's a lot less complicated from the inside," said da Matta, who has six poles and six victories in 12 races this season. "For a new track, there's not a whole lot of things we had to do to get (the car) decent. The team did a lot of guessing and did it right."
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