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Associated Press
Driver Jeff Gordon climbs out of his car after qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway, Saturday, May 5, 2012, in Talladega.(AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Jeff Gordon understands winning a pole doesn't mean very much for the big picture.

But after opening this season with a serious slump, the four-time NASCAR champion is embracing all the small victories he can get.

Gordon grabbed the top starting spot for today's race at Talladega Superspeedway with a lap at 191.623 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. It was Gordon's first pole since this race last year, and the 71st of his career — third on the all-time list.

And it comes at a time when Gordon is trying to jumpstart his season. He's got just two top finishes through the first nine races, and is ranked 17th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

"We all know that sitting on the pole at Talladega doesn't really guarantee anything for the race," he said. "The biggest positive is just the fact we've had a rough start to the season, not a lot has gone our way other than we've had fast cars but not a lot of results to show for it. To me, right now, we'll just take any kind of positive boost that we possibly can and this is a good one."

AJ Allmendinger held down the top spot for most of Saturday's qualifying session in his Penske Racing Dodge, and Gordon made his attempt with four cars to go. He ran an unconventional lap around the bottom of the track, and it was good enough to bump Allmendinger's 191.111.

"Definitely a new strategy, but those guys are fast no matter what," Allmendinger said.

Marcos Ambrose qualified third in a Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and was followed by Aric Almirola, who is running his first race this weekend with new crew chief Mike Ford.

Kasey Kahne, of Hendrick Motorsports, was fifth and followed by series points leader Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate. Defending series champion Tony Stewart was eighth in a Chevrolet, and Michael Waltrip was the highest qualifying Toyota at ninth.

Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.

Logano wins Nationwide event

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Joey Logano nipped Kyle Busch at the finish line to win the Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The race was marred by a late accident that sent Eric McClure to an Alabama hospital by helicopter. McClure was awake and speaking to emergency workers following the accident.