In NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifications at the tricky Martinsville Speedway on Friday afternoon, Jimmie Johnson raced to the pole position with a speed of 97.598 miles per hour in the Lowe’s Chevrolet.
For Johnson, he earned his third pole of the season, the 28th in his career and earned the speed honors for the third time on Martinsville’s half-mile oval.
We hope to be competitive on Sunday, which I feel really good about now.
Said the pole winner, “The thing I am really happy about is my qualifying average in last four or five attempts has been pretty low, and I haven’t been able to get the speed out of the car in one lap. Today, we noticed when we switched to qualifying trim we were in the upper percentile, which is nice. We fine-tuned from there, and I had a lot of speed, which was nice to have. Track position is important, and that pit-road position is so important. In the spring here, we qualified 22nd, but fortunately got a decent pit stall, but you take a lot more risks starting back there. We hope to be competitive on Sunday, which I feel really good about now.”
Starting alongside Johnson for Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 will be Brian Vickers in the MyClassicGarage.com Toyota. His speed was 97.533 mph.
“It is tough to qualify second, as you should be really excited about it, but you are frustrated because you are not first,” Vickers stated after his run. “We had a really good car in practice, as we Toyota gave us a great engine package. I would really liked to have had the pole but we will take second. Now, we just have to do it 500 more times.”
Third fastest was Kyle Busch (Toyota) at 97.427 mph and fourth in speed was Jeff Burton (Chevrolet) at 97.392 mph. For Burton, this was his best qualification effort of the season.
Commented Busch about his 19th top-10 starting effort of the season, “I felt like our car was pretty good as the guys at JGR have done a really nice job at building some fast race cars in last half of year. We just have to continue to strive to work hard through the remainder of the year, and to get ourselves ready for 2013. To qualify third here is good, although I would like to have the pole. But it is not a bad effort for us here at Martinsville.”
Denny Hamlin qualified fifth fastest (Toyota) with Kansas winner Matt Kenseth sixth (Ford).
Seventh through 10th were Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola.
Chase contenders qualifying outside the top-10 were Jeff Gordon (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (12th), Kevin Harvick (13th), Kasey Kahne (15th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th) and Chase point leader Brad Keselowski far back in 32nd. After a two-week layoff due to a concussion, Earnhardt is making his return to racing this weekend and let everyone know during a pre-qualifying press conference as to how thrilled he is to be back in action. In the first round of practice on Friday, he had posted the second fastest time.
Four races remain in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Keselowski holding a seven-point advantage over Johnson with Hamlin 20 off the pace and Bowyer 25 back.
Failing to qualify were Mike Bliss and J. J. Yeley.
Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 will be telecast live by ESPN at 1:30 p.m. ET.