Heading into the Geico 400 NASCAR race weekend, Chicagoland Speedway had never seen a repeat pole sitter in Sprint Cup Series competition. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet changed all that during pole qualifying on Saturday, turning a 29.530-second qualifying lap to claim the top starting spot for Sunday's race.
"I don't have much to complain about on that lap," Johnson said. "That was a pretty good lap."
Johnson's first pole at the track came in 2005 when he set the track qualifying record time of 28.701 seconds, which still stands. The pole for this weekend is the 27th of his career and the second this season.
"It's a great start, obviously, for the weekend," Johnson said. "Yesterday, we were fair, but the adjustments we made really helped."
Johnson will be joined on the front row by the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola, who turned in a lap time of 29.567 seconds.
"I'm happy with that," Almirola said. "(Crew chief) Todd Parrott and all the boys have given me a really good car this weekend. I have been really happy with it."
Matt Kenseth made a lap in 29.616 seconds in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to take third in qualifying. He'll be joined on the second row by Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Kenseth wasn't overly impressed by his qualifying run, saying that he thought he left a couple of tenths of a second out on the race track.
"We're doing okay, just don't think we're fast enough," Kenseth said.
Kenseth's RFR teammate, Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Ford, rounded out the top-five in qualifying.
With Johnson, Kenseth and Earnhardt as the only three Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors to qualify in the top-five, the top-10, overall, didn't look much better for the 12 Chasers. Only six Chase drivers posted top-10 qualifying runs, with the others being Kasey Kahne, who was sixth in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; series points leader Denny Hamlin, who was eighth in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; and Clint Bowyer, who was ninth in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Forty-seven drivers attempted to qualify for the 43 spots on the starting grid. Drivers who failed to make the race include Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley and Jason Leffler. Trevor Bayne in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was the fastest go-or-go-homer, qualifying 14th.
Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent