Jimmie Johnson's 19.244-second lap around Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Friday in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet not only garnered the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion the pole starting spot for Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500, it also set a new Martinsville qualifying record.
"We always go to the race track hoping we will have speed and be the guy to beat, but you just don’t know until you get out there and do it," Johnson said. "I think Phoenix proves that, because it was one of our better race tracks and we just didn’t have what we needed to there. That hasn’t been the case here this weekend. The car has been very fast and I am happy to back it up and I wish I would have made it on the second lap because I feel a car that can go two laps will be faster in the second lap. Our car was a little too loose and I got all I could on the first lap and tried for a little more on the second and it didn’t happen.”
Marcos Ambrose turned in a lap time of 19.251 seconds in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to claim the other front-row starting spot alongside Johnson. Brian Vickers was third in qualifying with a 19.266-second lap in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
"You can always say you could get more out of it, but it was a solid lap," Ambrose said. "Our No. 9 Stanley Ford has been on a rail today. I’m just really proud to come out here strong. We had a fast car off the truck and it’s really gonna help us.”
Joey Logano qualified fourth in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five in qualifying in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“Todd Gordon (crew chief) and all the guys did a good job on this Shell/Pennzoil Ford getting it better for me than what we had in practice," Logano said. "In practice there were some things that I could have done better, but we just worked as a team and made it a little better."
Both Penske Racing drivers qualified in the top-10, with Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski posting the seventh-fastest lap in qualifying. Also, three out of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers were in the top-10 in qualifying. Joining Johnson and Kahne in the top-10 was the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon in sixth.
Others qualifying in the top-10 include the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Matt Kenseth in eighth, the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards in ninth and the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman in 10th. Newman was last year's race winner.
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts on Friday, hoping to make the 43-car field. The one driver failing to claim a starting spot was Mike Bliss.