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Johnson Rolls To Pole At Lowe’s Motor Speedway

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 15 2009
Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Auto Club Speedway and was greeted by team owner Rick Hendrick afterward, won the pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday night. (NASCAR file photo)

Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Auto Club Speedway and was greeted by team owner Rick Hendrick afterward, won the pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Thursday night. (NASCAR file photo)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – With clouds hanging low and rain seemingly in no hurry to leave the Lowe’s Motor Speedway area, many involved in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship were put into grumpy moods. They were worried that qualifying would be washed out and that points-leader Jimmie Johnson would be handed the pole for Saturday night’s race.

It turned out their grumpiness went for naught. Qualifying was held, albeit late in the evening, and Johnson still earned the right to start the NASCAR Banking 500 from the pole.

Johnson turned a crazy lap at 192.376 and in 28.07 seconds to earn the right to lead the field to the green flag Saturday night. It also gave him first dibs on pit stalls and gave him an excellent shot at earning five bonus point for leading a lap.

The lap by Johnson was the fastest of the year in NASCAR. It was the fastest ever by a Car of Tomorrow.

“Phenomenal lap,” Brad Keselowski, who qualified eighth, said. “Jimmie and Chad (Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief) got it going on.”

Johnson won last weekend’s Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway and that allowed him to assume the Chase lead. It also puts him in the role of favorite to win his fourth straight Cup championship.

Johnson, a five-time winner at Lowe’s, was also fastest in practice on Friday.

“Great night,” Johnson said. “Tomorrow will be a whole different day. But we feel good. I’ll sleep well tonight.”

Mark Martin, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports and second in points, was second-fastest in qualifying. He trails Johnson by just 12 points.

Kasey Kahne, 11th in the 12-driver, 10-race playoff, was third-fastest in qualifying.

Non-Chaser Matt Kenseth was fourth in qualifying.

“At times it feels like things are getting better,” Kenseth said, “but some days it feels like

there’s a big leap and we’re running better, and other days – like most of the race at California – we start off good but then by the middle of the race we’re running 25th again.”

Tony Stewart, fourth in Chase points, was fifth in qualifying.

Juan Pablo Montoya, third in points and 58 behind Johnson, was 15th in qualifying. Jeff Gordon, fifth in points and 105 behind Hendrick teammate Johnson, was eighth in qualifying.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 15 2009
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