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Johnson Wins Pole at HMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 20 2009

FordChampionshipWeekendBy Mike Harris | Senior Writer

Homestead, Fla. – Jimmie Johnson said coming into the final weekend of the season that qualifying near the front would be an important step toward wrapping up his fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Mission accomplished.

Johnson ripped off the fastest lap of the afternoon on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway track to earn his fourth – and most important – pole of the season.

Johnson turned a fast lap at 173.919 mph.

“Definitely excited,” Johnson said. “The track position, having that first pit stall. The pits here are tough.

“I’m not taking anything for granted, especially after the first few laps at Texas. I’ll just go through the gears. Just the fact of being in the top five, the air is so much better on the cars.”

On the front row of the starting grid with Johnson will be rookie Scott Speed.

Mark Martin, who will trail Johnson by 108 points when the race starts and is the only other driver with a legitimate chance of catching Johnson, qualified fourth fastest.

Marcos Ambrose qualified third, Tony Stewart was fourth and Kevin Harvick was fifth.

Ambrose and Speed both said they will give Johnson plenty of room when the green flag drops on Sunday.

Johnson, Ambrose said, “has a halo around his car and you don’t want to be the idiot who crashes out the car leading the championship.”

Jeff Gordon, third in points and who will be eliminated from contention as soon as Johnson takes the green flag on Sunday, qualified 20th fastest.

One practice was held for the Cup cars at Homestead Friday. In that session, Johnson was only 21st fastest and Martin was 14th.

Kurt Busch had the fastest practice time while Juan Pablo Montoya was second and Clint Bowyer third.

(This story will be updated shortly)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 20 2009
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