The last four qualifiers each held the pole position for a few minutes, but Jeff Gordon is the only one who gets to keep it. As the night's final qualifier, Gordon knew the pole was up for grabs as speeds climbed higher as Bojangles' Pole Night Qualifying Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway went on, and he answered with a blazing lap in 27.791 seconds (194.308 mph).

"That was an exciting qualifying effort, regardless whether we were on the pole," Gordon said. "All those cars that were going late and the times just dropping. To go out there and know that the pressure's on you after the car ahead of you just sits on the pole and you're battling those guys for the championship … to go out there and get the pole is really exciting. To do it here in Charlotte … I think it's been a while since we've won it here, so man, it feels so good."

It was Gordon's ninth pole at Charlotte, his first since 2010, and it was won by the slimmest of margins. In fact, less than a tenth of a second separated the top five qualifiers.

Kasey Kahne turned a fast lap early in Thursday's qualifying session and held the pole position until the final four drivers of the night: Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Gordon. Each of those drivers benefited from the late draw and the knowledge gleaned from watching the rest of the field qualify by turning quicker laps than the driver before.

The three who had been edged out in succession each felt he had left something on the race track.

"I felt like I didn't get everything in (turns) three and four," Harvick said. "I knew the way practice was going that I had to get everything I could out of one and two and not get tight coming off Turn 4, and I probably lost the pole right there. We would really like to have the pole tonight, but everybody knows how we've qualified in the past, and to be on the front row, that's good for us."

Jeff Gordon (Bojangles' Pole Night Winner, 27.791 seconds, 194.308 mph): "Man, that was awesome. We got through (turns) three and four good in practice, but I thought I was a little bit tight; we actually freed the car up a little bit. When it went through one and two as good as it did … I just kept pushing the throttle down, and it stuck. I didn't know if it was going to be good enough and when I found out how close it really was; it's pretty amazing. That was an exciting qualifying effort, regardless whether we were on the pole. All those cars that were going late and the times just dropping. To go out there and know that the pressure's on you after the car ahead of you just sits on the pole, and you're battling those guys for the championship … to go out there and get the pole is really exciting. To do it here in Charlotte … I think it's been a while since we've won it here, so man, it feels so good."

(Were you on edge?) "You're always on the edge at Charlotte on a qualifying lap. My biggest fear was losing the front, not the back. I thought, 'OK, that was pretty good, now don't screw up three and four.' I just really wanted to get the front end down to the white line."

Kevin Harvick (2nd-place qualifier, 27.806 seconds, 194.203 mph): "I felt like I didn't get everything in three and four. I knew the way practice was going that I had to get everything I could out of one and two and not get tight coming off Turn 4, and I probably lost the pole right there. I've got to thank the guys. We knew we needed to qualify better in the Chase, we knew we needed to run better on the mile-and-a-half race tracks, and they're bringing cars to the race track to do that, and we're capitalizing on it. We would really like to have the pole tonight, but everybody knows how we've qualified in the past, and to be on the front row, that's good for us. The race is no problem. It's the qualifying that stresses me out. For us, qualifying has never been a strong suit. But to have a better pit selection and not have to pass half the field to start the race is a good sign for us. We were able to get some race laps in before we put it in qualifying trim."

Greg Biffle (3rd-place qualifier, 27.841 seconds, 193.959 mph): "I wasn't on the pole as long as I wanted to be, only about two cars. I'll tell you what. I'm surprised, very surprised the track had the grip it did. I watched the others guys go, and I was using the Kevin Harvick mentality of don't try for more than the track will give you. That was my mindset going in. And when I came across three and four the track had so much grip. I barely came out of the gas. I thought the track had a ton of grip. I got all I could in turns one and two. It had so much grip there, it kind of sucked me into three and four thinking it was going to be as good as one and two. I drove down in there and it went straight to the bottom, and I was like, oh I got this. I went to the gas and it started slipping up the race track. I actually got out of the gas pretty far. I would have run much faster if I would have backed up the corner. But Jeff (Gordon) had the best opportunity by watching what everybody else did and where he needed to be."