NASCAR & Auto Racing

Jeff Gordon wins pole for Las Vegas Sprint Cup Series race

There aren’t many firsts left in Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR career, but he added another Friday night.

Gordon’s track-record average lap of 194.679 mph in Round 3 of group qualifying earned him the pole for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, his first at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The pole is the 79th of Gordon’s career and second this season. He announced before the start of the year this would be his final full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series.

Kansas Speedway and Kentucky Speedway remain the only tracks on the Cup series’ current schedule where Gordon has not won a pole.

Joey Logano will start second, Kasey Kahne third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and Kyle Larson fifth.

NASCAR officials removed Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford from the starting grid and sent it back through inspection before Round 1 after an inspector noticed a team member pulling out the fender around the right-rear tire. NASCAR announced in the offseason teams would not be allowed to alter side skirts or fenders once cars cleared inspection and reported to the grid.

Keselowski was able to repass inspection and still had time to participate in qualifying. He will start 11th Sunday.

Gordon to meet with NASCAR on safety

Gordon said he has a planned meeting with NASCAR officials next week in Charlotte to discuss the sport’s safety measures, including the progress on expanding the use of energy-absorbing SAFER barriers at tracks.

“I just reached out to them to discuss some things, that being one of them,” Gordon said. “They have been sharing a lot of information with drivers, a lot more than in the past.”

Gordon, an outspoken advocate for the use of SAFER barriers at all tracks, was involved in a wreck in last Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and slammed into a wall not covered by protective barriers.

Cup driver Kyle Busch remains sidelined this season after suffering a broken leg and foot in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona after hitting an unprotected interior track wall.

Phoenix adds tire barriers

After a review of its existing safety barriers, Phoenix International Raceway has elected to add a new tire pack barrier along the interior wall of Turn 4 in advance of its NASCAR races next weekend.

“The additional protective barrier represents PIR’s ongoing commitment to providing a safe racing environment for its drivers, teams and fans,” track president Bryan Sperber said.

“PIR will continue to work in tandem with NASCAR to expedite the adoption of additional impact-absorbing technologies, as deemed necessary, at our facility.”

Kyle Petty Charity Ride sets route

The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America has announced the route for this year’s motorcycle trek, which will take place May 2-8.

Former NASCAR driver and now TV analyst Kyle Petty will lead 200 motorcyclists along the 2,500-mile route, stretching from Santa Cruz, Calif., to Branson, Mo., to raise funds and awareness for Victory Junction – a camp created to enrich the lives of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

“Year after year, the ride creates lasting memories for our riders, most importantly, it provides life-changing opportunities for children at Victory Junction,” Petty said.

Wilkesboro Dragway joins IHRA

Wilkesboro (N.C.) Dragway has signed a multiyear sanctioning agreement to join the IHRA as a member track.

The one-eighth-mile drag strip has been in use since 1955 and is owned by Pat and Phil Halbedel.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter