Jimmie Johnson drove the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard pole on Saturday (July 26th) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson's speed of 181.763 mph was well off the track qualifying record held by Casey...
Jimmie Johnson drove the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard pole on Saturday (July 26th) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson's speed of 181.763 mph was well off the track qualifying record held by Casey Mears of 186.293 mph, set in 2004; but quick enough to hold off Mark Martin in the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated No. 8 Chevy at 181.383 mph who'll start alongside in the front row.
Johnson took the dark blue and white Lowe's car around the 2.5 mile oval in Speedway, Indiana at approximately 10:45 AM EDT, an early appearance that many predicted would not hold up for the full two hour duration of NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying. Cloud cover, however, moderated temperatures and speeds remained restrained for the remainder of the qualifying session, aiding Johnson's pursuit of the top spot on the grid.
"It doesn't get much better," said the El Cajon, California native. "Our team has made a lot of progress this week. Hopefully we can be a threat on Sunday."
"Having track position will give us more flexibility," Johnson continued, reinforcing the popular notion that qualifying well means racing well at this huge motorsports complex just west of downtown Indianapolis.
Fans in the mostly-full Speedway's grandstands along the front straightaway of the Brickyard stood and cheered Johnson's effort, the day's best despite a small speed-losing bobble in Turn 3. It was his first Brickyard 400 pole and best start in six previous appearances here. He won the race in 2006 after starting in the fifth spot.
They also took to their feet with Martin's gutsy effort to overtake him, and with Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon's fifth-best speed of 180.545 mph and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s disappointing run at 179.863 mph to eleventh place.
"The car wanted to go," said Martin afterwards. "I'm grateful to the ARMY and DEI for letting me drive their car. It's phenomenal."
Penske Racing's Ryan Newman and Gillett Evernham Motorsports' Kasey Kahne took the third and fourth positions on the grid leading to Sunday's 400-mile race that commences at 2 PM EDT.
Forty-eight cars made qualifying attempts on Saturday. Among the notables at speed were Elliott Sadler in sixth on a speed of 180.397 mph and Kurt Busch at 180.343 mph for seventh. Jamie McMurray earned eighth for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 26 car at 180.321 mph and the No. 99 Ford of Carl Edwards (180.209 mph) is in the race at ninth on the starting grid; followed by Matt Kenseth's Ford No. 17 car on 179.917 mph to round out the top ten.
Hoosier Tony Stewart rolls off as the fourteenth-best starter, and the fastest Toyota driver, in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car as he attempts to add a third Brickyard 400 championship to his total, including last year's victorious run to the checkered flag.
"We're faster than yesterday (in practice)," said the Columbus, Indiana hero, "but we're not where we want to be yet."
Fan favorite Bill Elliott failed to qualify for the Brickyard 400 when veteran Terry LaBonte exercised his provisional privilege as former champion to enter the field. LaBonte will pilot the No. 45 Petty Enterprises Dodge in the absence of Kyle Petty.