Gordon turned a fast lap of 185.735 mph Friday to grab the 57th pole of his career.
"It feels good to me just to get out from restrictor plate racing (at Daytona) and have a car that has downforce and be able to drive it through the corners and work with the teams on the handling," said Gordon, who crashed on the last lap Sunday in the Daytona 500 and finished 10th.
"This is really where the championship is going to be made, on the downforce tracks," the four-time series champion and three-time California winner added. "If we can put a good race car on the track this weekend, I'm going to be pretty excited about the type of year we're going to have."
Kasey Kahne was second to Gordon at 185.519.
Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin, who put on a heart-thumping finish in the 500, with Harvick winning by the length of his hood, were close again, this time with Martin coming out just ahead, 185.500 to 185.424.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth at 185.405, followed at 184.805 by Clint Bowyer, who finished the 500 on his roof with his engine compartment in flames.
The fastest of four Toyotas that made the field was Dave Blaney, 14th at 183.927. Blaney, driving for Bill Davis Racing, is the only Toyota entry who finished in the top 35 in car owner points last season and is guaranteed a starting spot in the first five races of 2007 because of those points.
Vickers, with a new team and with no points from last year, failed to race his way into the 500, but was just behind Blaney in 15th on Friday at 183.852. His rookie teammate, former open-wheel star A.J. Allmendinger, again came up short and will miss the race.
Waltrip also will be watching the race instead of driving in it after being knocked out of the lineup by rookie teammate David Reutimann.