WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - As the track's all-time wins leader, Jeff Gordon doesn't need many advantages at Watkins Glen International. But he'll take whatever comes.
As the leader in the Nextel Cup Series standings, Gordon won the pole position for today's Centurion Boats at the Glen at the historic 2.45-mile road course in Upstate New York (2 p.m. ESPN). Qualifying was rained out Friday.
"I keep trying to find where the payoffs and benefits are in leading the points like we are right now, and it's moments like this that it does pay off," Gordon said.
That's the way things have gone this year for him. His car is fast; he's winning races. He became a father for the first time two months ago and said he finally has a balance between his personal and professional life.
It's going so good, he's willing to take chances.
"It's not that you try to go for wins any harder, you just are in a position to take more risks to maybe get those wins," he said. "It's one of those things that is risk vs. reward. When you're trying to make it into the Chase, the risk isn't worth it. When you're locked in the Chase, or pretty much into the Chase, then the risk could be worth it."
Gordon has four wins at Watkins Glen. He also has five victories at the other road course, Infineon Raceway, making him the most-prolific road course racer in stock car history. But today's race will feature NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow and Gordon is on record as saying the difference might erase some of his advantage.
"With the old car, you had notes and if you had success, you could just go off those notes and build on them trying to make things better," he said. "Now, you basically start from scratch."
Denny Hamlin will start second today, while Matt Kenseth is third.
The rest of the top-10 starters include: Jeff Burton in fourth, Tony Stewart in fifth, Carl Edwards in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in seventh, Kyle Busch in eighth, Kevin Harvick in ninth and Regan Smith in 10th.
"We could have had a shot at the pole, or we could have ended up running off the course and running 30th," Hamlin said. "So, I definitely will take second. That's good for us. You'd like to see qualifying because a lot of guys have to qualify on time that deserve to be in the field based on their speed. But they just don't have the points. That's just the system we work in."
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.