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Jimmie Johnson wins Martinsville pole

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Friday, April 05, 2013

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So what else is new?

Jimmie Johnson, who won last fall's race at Martinsville Speedway from the top starting spot, continued his mastery of the paper-clip-shaped track during Friday afternoon's time trials.

In the first competitive appearance of NASCAR's Gen-6 race car at Martinsville, Johnson blistered the vaunted short track in 19.244 seconds (98.400 mph) in winning the pole for Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500, as the top six drivers in the field topped the former track record of 98.084 mph established by Tony Stewart in October 2005.

In winning his third Coors Light pole award at Martinsville and the 30th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of his career, Johnson edged Marcos Ambrose by .007 seconds. Brian Vickers qualified third, followed by Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Kahne and Gordon, Johnson's teammates at Hendrick Motorsports, ran identical speeds (98.185 mph), with Kahne getting the fifth starting spot based on his car's higher standing in owner points.

In his first practice run earlier in the day, Johnson knew his No. 48 Chevrolet SS was fast.

"In the first run out, we were in (qualifying) trim and made two or three laps, and I knew right away that we had a great shot at it today," said Johnson, a seven-time winner at Martinsville. "At that point, I just needed to do my job and not mess up.

"So I'm very proud of that. It's very easy to (mess up) at this race track, especially once practice ends. You sit and have lunch and relax for a couple hours and have to do it all over again. A great day across the board — team, driver, engine, car, everything that's new. We were able to step up and figure it out and get the car dialed in."

Early in Friday's session, the track record fell. Logano, the third driver to make a qualifying run, toured the .526-mile short track in 19.269 seconds (98.272 mph), breaking the record set by Stewart, one of his Fontana antagonists from two weeks ago.

Six cars later, Ambrose (98.384 mph) knocked Logano off the provisional pole, and Vickers followed with a lap at 98.287 mph to push Logano back to third after 14 of 44 cars had taken time trials. Johnson's pole run late in the session bumped Logano to fourth.

The No. 2 Ford of defending series champion Brad Keselowski was late getting through inspection and made it to the grid with seconds left on the five-minute clock. Keselowski nevertheless qualified seventh at 98.078 mph.

Notes: Danica Patrick will start 32nd for her first race at Martinsville and the first for a female driver in NASCAR's top division at the venerable short track. ... Subbing for injured Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin qualified 35th in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. ... Mike Bliss failed to make the 43-car field.

POLE WINNER

YOU POSTED A NEW TRACK RECORD. TALK ABOUT YOUR LAP:

“I just heard that. That’s the icing on the cake. That makes the day even better yet. Track records are hard to come by, so I’m very proud of that and happy to have that. My first run out, we were in q-trim and we made two or three laps and we just knew right away that we would have a great shot at it today. At that point, I just needed to do my job and not mess up. So I’m very proud of that. It’s very easy to do at this race track, especially once practice ends. You’ll sit and have lunch and relax for a couple of hours and then have to do it all over again. It was a great day across the board for the team, driver, the engine, the car, and everything. We got the car dialed-in.”

HOW DID YOU FEEL DRIVING IN THE CAR TODAY WITH SETTING THE RECORD? DID YOU HAVE THAT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND WHILE MAKING YOUR LAP?

“I didn’t know what the record was and honestly didn’t know that we were below it in practice either. We ran a .21 in practice so I was unaware of that altogether. I just heard about it as we were taking photos with the Coors Light backdrop and everything. Great news. It was something again, I didn’t know about but am very happy to have.”

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGE TO BEING ON THE POLE HERE IN MARTINSVILLE?

“That pit stall. If you get behind or if you’re off-strategy or if you have any reason that leads you to lose track position, that pit stall is worth three to five positions on the race track. It’s a big, big advantage from that perspective.”

DURING PRACTICE, DID YOU DO ANY LONG RUNS? DID YOU GET ANY SENSE OF TIRE HEAT AND BEAD HEAT AND DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WHERE YOU ARE CONSIDERING THE PROBLEMS YOU’VE HAD EARLIER THIS YEAR?

“I didn’t do any race runs at all. And I know the No. 88 (Earnhardt Jr.) did. I think our teammates all started in race trim but we were just strictly in qualifying trim. I know that they saw some high wear, which is very common to have here. Until we get into the Cup practice tomorrow, the track just doesn’t take rubber for some reason. It usually stays pretty green an abrasive.

“But I don’t feel like we’ll have a lot of beading issues here based on conversations I’ve had with the team and understanding the Bristol tire and what tire they bring here. You can eventually get them too hot and have it be a problem, but the problem I had at Bristol was not a bead problem. The bead might have blown out, but it wasn’t from heat around where the tire and bead meet. If you have a good-driving race car, I don’t think you’ll see any melted beads from brake temps.”

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR SEVEN GRANDFATHER TROPHIES ARE?

“Yeah. Six are at my man cave, my warehouse, and then one is in my office.”

DO YOU HAVE A PLACE FOR NUMBER 8 IF YOU WIN IT?

“Oh, I’ve got a big warehouse. I’ve got a lot of room. I call it the warehouse, but it’s really my man cave. I’ve got everything from when I was a kid on dirt bikes that I’ve saved, that my mom has saved, all the way to stuff now. So, I have a pretty good collection.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT OTHER TRACK RECORDS YOU HOLD?

“I think I have one in California? No? Okay. Um, this could be a fun game (laughter). Kansas? No. I’m terrible with stats. There are a lot of stats given to me whenever I’m in here (Media Center). I’m always playing dumb. I’m not really playing dumb, I’m just dumb. I just don’t know. Kentucky? I was on the pole in Kentucky? Awesome. Heck, that was recent, too, and I don’t even remember that (laughs). Those were the only two? Now I know the stat.”

INAUDIBLE

“Yeah, I feel like when the track is resurfaced, that brings in an opportunity. I feel like this car will give us a better chance at a lot of tracks that might have an older surface on it, because of all the extra downforce we have with it. Again, I think it’s a moving target because of the age of the surface on every track.”

ON SETTING A NEW QUALIFYING RECORD:

“I didn’t know I was on a new tire until after practice. My car felt awesome. Since we unloaded, I knew I was going fast. I’m just trying to understand. We have a little bit lighter car here. The weight is in different position, basically. I knew my stuff was fast. I didn’t know where the mark was. I’m surprised with it being this sunny. I remember when Ryan (Newman) set the pole, it was a very cool day with a lot of fast times and he blasted off a quick one. So, the track record today was not in my mindset at all. I just didn’t think it was there. But I knew I had a great driving car.

YESTERDAY, WE HAD EVERYTHING FROM RAIN AND SLEET AND SNOW. TODAY WE HAVE SUNSHINE AND A SOMEWHAT GREEN TRACK. IS THERE A POINT DURING THE RACE WEEKEND WHEN A GREEN TRACK CAN BE A DISADVANTAGE? IS THERE A PARTICULAR TRACK WHERE IT CAN BE MORE OF A DISADVANTAGE?

“Yeah, green tracks are tough to manage. I’d say concrete tracks, in my opinion, are more difficult ones to sort out. The tire wear is really high on green tracks. For here, in the Cup race, a third of the way or the halfway point, the track changes and you’ll see where we lay down right-side rubber. In the set-up you worked on Friday and Saturday is now kind of out the window and the car drives totally different because of the right-side rubber laying down. That’s the biggest challenge here that we fight. In my opinion you have a green race track until the race starts, so you’re guessing what the balance needs to be in the car and you’re hoping that the rear tire wear you see is because of the green track. Experience does help teams here to realize that hey, the track is just not there yet. Let’s stay the course. We had a successful race with whatever set-up, and fall back on your experience because a green track here, and even Dover and Bristol, can play some games with you because the balance changes pretty dramatically.”

Results

Pos Driver Car Make Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Lowe's 98.400 19.244 Leader
2 Marcos Ambrose 9 Ford Stanley 98.364 19.251 -0.007
3 Brian Vickers 55 Toyota Jet Edge 98.287 19.266 -0.022
4 Joey Logano 22 Ford Shell-Pennzoil 98.272 19.269 -0.025
5 Kasey Kahne 5 Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 98.185 19.286 -0.042
6 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet Drive To End Hunger 98.185 19.286 -0.042
7 Brad Keselowski 2 Ford Miller Lite 98.078 19.307 -0.063
8 Matt Kenseth 20 Toyota The Home Depot / Husky 98.017 19.319 -0.075
9 Carl Edwards 99 Ford Fastenal 97.962 19.330 -0.086
10 Ryan Newman 39 Chevrolet Quicken Loans 97.962 19.330 -0.086
11 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota M&M's 97.947 19.333 -0.089
12 Martin Truex Jr 56 Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 97.941 19.334 -0.090
13 Jamie McMurray 1 Chevrolet Novo Nordisk 97.850 19.352 -0.108
14 Juan Pablo Montoya 42 Chevrolet Target 97.780 19.366 -0.122
15 Clint Bowyer 15 Toyota RK Motors 97.719 19.378 -0.134
16 Paul Menard 27 Chevrolet Menards / Pittsburgh Paints 97.643 19.393 -0.149
17 Dale Earnhardt Jr 88 Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew 97.613 19.399 -0.155
18 Regan Smith 51 Chevrolet Hendrickcars.com 97.513 19.419 -0.175
19 Kurt Busch 78 Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing-Serta 97.458 19.430 -0.186
20 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 17 Ford Fifth Third Bank 97.442 19.433 -0.189
21 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet Budweiser 97.432 19.435 -0.191
22 Greg Biffle 16 Ford 3M 97.417 19.438 -0.194
23 David Ragan 34 Ford TBA 97.382 19.445 -0.201
24 David Stremme 30 Toyota Swan Racing 97.297 19.462 -0.218
25 Travis Kvapil 93 Toyota Burger King / Dr. Pepper 97.247 19.472 -0.228
26 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 97.217 19.478 -0.234
27 Michael McDowell 98 Ford Phil Parsons Racing 97.177 19.486 -0.242
28 Scott Speed 95 Ford Surrender the Sponsor 97.048 19.512 -0.268
29 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma 96.993 19.523 -0.279
30 David Gilliland 38 Ford Long John Silver's 96.949 19.532 -0.288
31 Bobby Labonte 47 Toyota Bush's Beans 96.904 19.541 -0.297
32 Danica Patrick 10 Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 96.899 19.542 -0.298
33 Landon Cassill 33 Chevrolet Little Joe's Autos / Precon Marine 96.879 19.546 -0.302
34 Aric Almirola 43 Ford Jani-King / STP 96.830 19.556 -0.312
35 Mark Martin 11 Toyota FedEx Freight 96.755 19.571 -0.327
36 Ken Schrader 32 Ford Federated Auto Parts 96.676 19.587 -0.343
37 J.J. Yeley 36 Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 96.657 19.591 -0.347
38 Scott Riggs 44 Ford TBA 96.597 19.603 -0.359
39 Dave Blaney 7 Chevrolet Sany 96.489 19.625 -0.381
40 David Reutimann 83 Toyota Burger King / Dr. Pepper 96.474 19.628 -0.384
41 Casey Mears 13 Ford GEICO 96.406 19.642 -0.398
42 Josh Wise 35 Ford MDS Transport 96.259 19.672 -0.428
43 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota Maddie's Place Rocks.com 95.521 19.824 -0.580

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