Jimmie Johnson scores pole at New Hampshire

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson
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Jimmie Johnson took home the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Johnson got around the 1.058-mile track at 133.971 mph in the final of three qualifying rounds for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The pole was the first of the 2016 season for the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, the 35th of his career and the first of his career at New Hampshire.

Joining Johnson on the front row will be defending race winner Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 133.830 mph).

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, 133.371 mph) and Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 133.059 mph) will make up Row 2, while Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 133.059 mph) and Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford, 132.915 mph) will comprise Row 3.

Truex advanced to the final round by .001 seconds, which meant that Carl Edwards (winner of the previous two poles at New Hampshire) did not advance to the last round of qualifying.

Alex Bowman , who is driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend as the interim driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., will line up 20th on Sunday. Earnhardt is out for the race after experience concussion-like symptoms.

Several cars did not get through inspection until near the latter half of the opening round of qualifying.

The Sprint Cup Series will be on track for two 55-minute practice sessions Saturday. The first at 10 a.m. ET will be televised on CNBC and the second at 12:30 p.m. ET will be televised on NBCSN.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER

THAT WAS AM IMPRESSIVE LAP DID YOU THINK YOUR CAR HAD THAT IN IT?
“I knew the car was good. We had something really weird go on in our mock run in practice for qualifying. It had us kind of confused. We went back to kind of square one and where we unloaded. The car was fast in all the sessions, a little tight, but we kept progressing, we kept our lap count down which was really important and was able to advance to the next round on the first lap, so just really happy. It was a trying day for sure, but just so proud of this who race team. Huge thanks to all the support from Lowe’s and all the employees at Lowe’s. They are behind us each and every weekend and we are very appreciative of that. Great support at Hendrick Motorsports and also Chevrolet. Just a great day."

HOW MUCH DID THIS TEAM NEED THIS?
“We have had a lot of tough races. Qualifying has been so/so. I’m not the best at qualifying. I think the majority of that emotion was the fact that we actually got a pole. We don’t have many. It’s not our strong suit. Just a good day all-in-all and certainly something this Lowe’s team needed after the tough couple of months."

DID THAT ONE TAKE YOU BY SURPRISE A LITTLE?
“Yeah, especially the way practice ended. We had a really weird set of tires or something odd go on on our mock run at the end of practice. It felt like something was broken on the car. So, to come back and have good speed in the car in advance. I knew after round two we would have a shot at the pole because we were able to keep our lap count down and advance to the next round on our first lap in each session. And then put together a smooth lap. I felt like it could have been faster, but certainly a good smooth one and it was enough."

WHAT IS IT LIKE QUALIFYING HERE?
“You are just on edge. There is so little banking and so little grip, but if you get it right you can really produce a lap time. Overdriving the entry is something that is very easy to do. Then if you get in easy enough it is very easy to be too early to the gas and create all kinds of issues on the exit. Entry speed puts you in the right center and then you are able to drive off the corner and have enough drive off. Putting those three things together are about as tough as they get here. I was happy to get it. I ran one good lap, ran a second lap that wasn’t that good and Chad (Knaus) was encouraging me for a third lap and I about crashed down in (Turn) 1."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Starting Position: 2nd

Did you have anything for the pole-winning lap that Jimmie Johnson posted?

“No, I thought we were kind of close to that in the second round. Overall, I messed up a couple times on that lap that we had and a little bit off of four and definitely checked up and had to get out of the gas just to save the car and come down and have a good lap. Still surprising that we were second. The car wasn’t driving as well as I would have liked it to drive for qualifying there and stuck quite as good as I would have expected it to, but good speed and that’s what matters right now and being able to put up a good lap like that. Great job to the Interstate Batteries team, Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the boys, they’ve done a good job here. Looking forward to hopefully working on our Camry a little bit more tomorrow and making it drive good and have some good speed as well for Sunday."

How important is good pit selection at this track?

“There’s one that we wanted and we don’t get that one. Normally (Jimmie) Johnson likes to take down on that end so hopefully he stays on that so then we can have one. We do have good pit selection and we were just kind of talking about that where we wanted to be and what we were kind of looking for, seeing what we can do in order to get the best race possible on Sunday."

How was the car in qualifying?

“Our car wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped it would be as far as the feeling that I had with grip. It was fast though, the second round and third round were certainly high up there on the speed charts, but just didn’t quite have the comfort that I was looking for out of the car to be able to push it a little bit more and get some more time out of it, actually had to give up a little time because of the lack of grip that I felt off the exit of four and ended up p2 today. The Interstate Batteries Camry is good, Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a great job and just look forward to being able to work on some balance and work on some feel that I like for tomorrow and get ready for Sunday."

Are there any similarities from this track to other tracks?

“This place is kind of its own animal, it’s a lot of a short track and it kind of reminds you a little bit of Martinsville, bit it doesn’t drive near the same as Martinsville. This place is definitely pretty tricky as far as trying to figure out what the right balance of speed is and what the right balance of grip is. You can be really fast here and be really loose and you can try to calm that down and get some comfort built into the car for you so you can just steer it to the left and not worry about having to counter-steer to the right and then you’re slow. A lot of different things go into what you want to feel as a driver here around this place."

What are the biggest changes from qualifying setup to race setup?

“The biggest thing that you look for is just trying to get the car as fast as you can make it for the short run for qualifying so you’ll put some nose weight to it, you’ll put some camber to it and things like that and you’ll free it up so you can make sure you can hustle it as fast as you can possibly hustle it and not have the thing go tight on you. If you do those things for the race you’ll just be way too loose and you won’t be able to hang on for the long run so you definitely have to take some of those adjustments out and make sure that the car is well balanced and will last here probably 80 laps or so."

MARTIN TRUEX, JR., No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing

Starting Position: 3rd

How many changes have you all been making to the car today to be so strong?

“It’s been a hectic day. It seems like we’ve been thrashing all day long. Everything is last minute, last second and just throwing stuff at it, but when it counts we keep hitting it. We were first in practice and third here. We barely made it through the second round and then went on to finish third. All in all, it was a good day. Just a lot of quick decisions by everyone."

How challenging is this race track with the heat and new tires?

“This is a tricky place for sure and so line sensitive and heat sensitive. Just have to work tomorrow on getting it balanced for Sunday. I think for us, we’ve had really good speed all day, it’s just if we can get the balance close or not. Tomorrow, that second practice seems to really be the one that counts – that first one, not so much. We’ll do some experimenting in the first one and try to learn what we need to make differences in our car and what we need to make it feel somewhat decent and then the second practice we’ll concentrate on getting the balance hopefully right for the weather conditions on Sunday."

How important is track position at New Hampshire?

“It’s very difficult, but with the tire we have this year we’re hoping it falls off more, which will make everybody have to put tires on. Typically this would become a fuel mileage race and a race where you have to catch the cautions right so you can stay out and get that track position. Hopefully the tires wear out this weekend where we’ll actually have to put tires on during a pit stop and it will be harder for guys to jump from 15th to 20th and be suddenly at the front. Hopefully that’s the case and we’ll be able to race our way up front all day long, have good stops and just keep track position and not have to worry about gaining it."

KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 MONSTER ENERGY/HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS – Qualified 4th

ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP:
“It’s always a fine line of driving right on that edge versus being conservative. Once you step over the edge you never get the time back. It’s a tough, flat, 1-mile oval that if you are smooth with it it will pay you back. I knew I could just be right there, but I couldn’t attack to run in the 40’s that is where the pole sitter was. We could have attacked. Yes, maybe we could have got into the 40’s, but we ran a 60 with our Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevy. We ran a 60 all three runs. I just couldn’t attack to run a 40."

HOW MUCH POTENTIAL DOES THIS CAR HAVE?
“It’s got good potential. There is the drop off and the gear ratio that we have to keep track of. It’s dropping off more so because of the hotter temperatures this time around. Usually it’s a little bit cooler out. We will just go to work on it tomorrow, see what we had and try to get our car better from lap 15 to lap 40."

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Starting Position: 5th

How was the car in qualifying?

“It was alright. We were pretty good through the first two rounds and just got off balance there on the final round. Disappointing, I thought we could run quite a bit better than what we ran there. Still a good starting spot. We’ve been like third or fifth here a bunch of races in a row so we can win from there and really pretty optimistic that we’ll have a good car for this weekend."

How much will the temperature impact the tires and the race?

“I don’t think a whole lot will change for sure. I think that once it gets over 80 (degrees), everything else is what it is. I don’t know, I think that if you get your car dialed in you can make passes and if you don’t its going to be a difficult, long day."

Lineup

Pos. Car # Driver Manufacturer Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 133.971 28.430 Leader
2 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 133.830 28.460 –0.030
3 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota Furniture Row 133.371 28.558 –0.128
4 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Haas Automation / Monster Energy Chevrolet SS 133.059 28.625 –0.195
5 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 133.059 28.625 –0.195
6 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 132.915 28.656 –0.226
7 24 Chase Elliott Chevrolet NAPA Auto Parts 132.720 28.698 –0.268
8 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Chevrolet SS 132.697 28.703 –0.273
9 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Miller Lite 132.692 28.704 –0.274
10 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Bush's Grillin Beans 132.618 28.720 –0.290
11 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Quicken Loans 132.126 28.827 –0.397
12 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Haas Automation Chevrolet SS 131.989 28.857 –0.427
13 19 Carl Edwards Toyota Sport Clips 132.822 28.676 –0.246
14 21 Ryan Blaney Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire + Auto Center 132.799 28.681 –0.251
15 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet Dow (Olympic / USOC) 132.780 28.685 –0.255
16 83 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota Cosmo Motors 132.683 28.706 –0.276
17 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Target 132.471 28.752 –0.322
18 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota Dollar General 132.278 28.794 –0.364
19 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Credit One / CreditCards.Com 132.241 28.802 –0.372
20 88 Alex Bowman Chevrolet Nationwide 132.057 28.842 –0.412
21 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet GEICO 131.724 28.915 –0.485
22 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Fastenal Ford Fusion 131.678 28.925 –0.495
23 23 David Ragan Toyota Flaming Leprechaun 131.665 28.928 –0.498
24 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Dutch Boy / Menards 131.180 29.035 –0.605
25 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Whelen 131.501 28.964 –0.534
26 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 131.401 28.986 –0.556
27 95 Michael McDowell Chevrolet Malwarebytes 130.954 29.085 –0.655
28 16 Greg Biffle Ford NESN Fuel Ford Fusion 130.711 29.139 –0.709
29 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS 130.568 29.171 –0.741
30 38 Landon Cassill Ford MDS Transport 130.568 29.171 –0.741
31 6 Trevor Bayne Ford Advocare Ford Fusion 130.559 29.173 –0.743
32 15 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 5-Hour Energy 130.367 29.216 –0.786
33 44 Brian Scott Ford Shaw's Ford 130.224 29.248 –0.818
34 7 Regan Smith Chevrolet APC Chevrolet 129.812 29.341 –0.911
35 34 Chris Buescher Ford CSX – Play it Safe 128.680 29.599 –1.169
36 55 Reed Sorenson Toyota VYDOX Plus 128.070 29.740 –1.310
37 46 Michael Annett Chevrolet Pilot Flying J 126.774 30.044 –1.614
38 32 Eddie MacDonald Ford Bentley's Saloon 126.690 30.064 –1.634
39 30 Josh Wise Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 126.534 30.101 –1.671
40 98 Ryan Ellis Toyota Superlite Cars 124.871 30.502 –2.072

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