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Johnson wins first pole since 2010

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Friday, June 29, 2012

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Jimmie Johnson
Getty Images for NASCAR
At a track that used to eat up his race cars, Jimmie Johnson was fastest of the fast in Friday's Sprint Cup qualifying session at Kentucky Speedway.

The 43rd of 44 drivers to make a timed run, Johnson toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's Quaker State 400, the second Cup race at Kentucky. Johnson claimed his first Coors Light pole award since Sept. 26, 2010 at Dover and the 26th of his career.

Kyle Busch (181.421 mph) qualified second, followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (181.147 mph). Kevin Harvick will start fourth after a lap at 180.367 mph, one spot ahead of Ryan Newman (180.337 mph).

"It was a good lap -- qualifying has not been our strong suit in the last couple of years," Johnson said. "I'm very happy to get this pole today. My Chevy's bad fast, and I'm looking forward to going racing.

"I've had a lot of crashes here over the years. We used to test here a lot back in the day, and Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few [No.] 48 race cars from us. To run well last year (third at Kentucky) was really good for me. I came back with a lot of confidence. Conditions earlier today were so slick that it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for, but I think we're on the right track now."

Series points leader Matt Kenseth earned the 20th starting position. Clint Bowyer, last week's winner at Sonoma, will take the green flag from the sixth position, one position better than that of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Violent winds interrupted the session for 17 minutes after 20 cars had made qualifying attempts. After the wind subsided, drivers began running significantly quicker laps on a cooler track. Tony Stewart, the first driver to make a run after the delay, was more than a full mile-per-hour faster than the top qualifier, Scott Speed, before the wind storm.

"My motor home was swaying so hard, I thought somebody had run into me in the motor home lot," said Johnson, who took refuge in his coach during the storm.

As qualified progressed, speeds continued to escalate, as the fastest cars in Friday's opening practice took their turns in inverse order, slower to faster. Greg Biffle, the 25th driver to attempt qualifying, toured the 1.5-mile track in 30.041 seconds (179.754 mph), but his reign at the top of the chart was short-lived.

Jeff Gordon, the 29th qualifier, was the first to run a sub-30-second lap (29.994 seconds) and the first to top 180 mph (180.036 mph), but Newman soon knocked him off the provisional pole with a lap at 180.337 mph.

J.J. Yeley and Mike Skinner failed to make the 43-car field.

Lineup

POS CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's Dover White 181.818 29.700 Leader
2 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Red, White & Blue 181.421 29.765 -0.065
3 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 181.147 29.810 -0.110
4 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor 180.367 29.939 -0.239
5 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Tornados 180.337 29.944 -0.244
6 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 180.228 29.962 -0.262
7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 180.222 29.963 -0.263
8 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 180.204 29.966 -0.266
9 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 180.036 29.994 -0.294
10 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 179.964 30.006 -0.306
11 16 Greg Biffle Ford American Red Cross 179.754 30.041 -0.341
12 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Mac Tools 179.509 30.082 -0.382
13 43 Aric Almirola Ford Eckrich 179.337 30.111 -0.411
14 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 179.206 30.133 -0.433
15 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Sylvania 179.075 30.155 -0.455
16 22 AJ Allmendinger Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 179.045 30.160 -0.460
17 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 178.992 30.169 -0.469
18 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 178.867 30.190 -0.490
19 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Quaker State 178.737 30.212 -0.512
20 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Fifth Third Bank 178.230 30.298 -0.598
21 13 Casey Mears Ford Valvoline NextGen 177.825 30.367 -0.667
22 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 177.801 30.371 -0.671
23 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King 177.020 30.505 -0.805
24 195 Scott Speed Ford Leavine Family Racing 176.505 30.594 -0.894
25 99 Carl Edwards Ford UPS 176.217 30.644 -0.944
26 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row 175.970 30.687 -0.987
27 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 175.730 30.729 -1.029
28 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Scott Products 175.615 30.749 -1.049
29 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 175.211 30.820 -1.120
30 26 Josh Wise* Ford MDS Transport 175.080 30.843 -1.143
31 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 175.063 30.846 -1.146
32 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 174.757 30.900 -1.200
33 34 David Ragan Ford Front Row Motorsports 174.695 30.911 -1.211
34 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King 174.402 30.963 -1.263
35 98 Michael McDowell Ford Presbyterian Healthcare System 174.402 30.963 -1.263
36 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 174.345 30.973 -1.273
37 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Humphrey Smith Racing 174.272 30.986 -1.286
38 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet Outsourcing in the USA@TMone 173.511 31.122 -1.422
39 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 172.199 31.359 -1.659
40 38 David Gilliland+ Ford Taco Bell - - -
41 32 Ken Schrader+ Ford Federated Auto Parts - - -
42 36 Dave Blaney+ Chevrolet SealWrap - - -
43 33 Stephen Leicht* Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 173.132 31.190 -1.490
DNQ 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota America Israel Racing / JPO Absorbents - - -
DNQ 52 Mike Skinner Toyota CrusaderStaffing.com - - -

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie

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