Jimmie Johnson nabs pole at Charlotte

Jimmie Johnson went out dead last and but came out first, knocking Ryan Newman out of the top spot to earn his first Budweiser pole of the season. Newman, had gone out fourth and held the top spot throughout the session, until Johnson -- who went out 52nd -- bested him by almost a mile per hour with a lap of 187.052 mph.

Pole winner Jimmie Johnson.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"This track, there is something about it that Chad likes and I like, and we just have the package for it at Hendrick Motorsports," said Johnson. "We felt very comfortable and very confident about our chances.

"We were a little nervous because we didn't test, but we were able to sort things out during practice for the All-Star event last week, and here we are today. The way we got through one and two I knew we were really hooked up."

Johnson, Newman and Jeff Gordon all broke the previous track qualifying record set by Newman in 2003.

"We were very confident until Ryan went out and ran that speed," commented No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus. "When the sun goes completely down here, it makes the track slick, we didn't know if we would have the speed that we needed. But we thought we had a pretty good shot at it."

Newman, who leads the series with three poles this season, had to settle for the outside pole with a lap of 186.948 mph.

"We picked up quite a bit from where we practiced," commented Newman. "We were second in practice. I guess that was our number of the day today. Jimmie (Johnson) had a great draw, and I knew ours was going to hurt us.

"Great effort and a great start spotting. Hopefully we can win on Sunday."

Jeff Gordon was third, but felt that his early time-trial draw of 14 may have cost him some speed. As the session progressed, track temperatures dipped and many racers complained that early runs under the blaring run were definitely a disadvantage.

"The morning practice session is ridiculous," Gordon blasted. "We run this race at night. We should practice at night."

Overall, however, Gordon seemed pleased with the performance of the No. 24 Chevrolet.

"From the engine to the car to the people the whole effort was awesome," said Gordon. "We unloaded and we were a little it off. We were pretty conservative when we unloaded. We kept attacking and putting our best effort out there. Track conditions are fast right now and you can get really aggressive. That's a great effort. I am really proud."

Elliott Sadler scored his sixth top-ten start of the season, in fourth.

"We have a really good set up," said Sadler. "This place really fits my driving style. We just want to go out there and stay out of trouble."

It was a Hendrick Motorsports sweep of the top five, with rookie Brian Vickers bringing the No. 25 Chevy home in fifth.

"It's not a bad starting spot," commented Vickers. "It was a good effort by the GMAC team. We were a little tight off of turn four in practice. We fixed it, but not enough."

Fifty-two cars attempted to make the forty-three car field. It was the biggest grid of cars to attempt to make a race since the Brickyard 400 last season. Racers failing to make the show included Steve Park, Todd Bodine, Morgan Shepard, Geoffrey Bodine and Stanton Barrett.