In the pre-qualifying press conferences at Watkins Glen, a reoccurring theme in some of the questioning was the idea that Jimmie Johnson needs to win on a road course in order for him to be considered “complete” as a Sprint Cup legend.
On Friday afternoon, Jimmie put himself in position to “complete his legend.”
With a lap time of 71.340 seconds (123.633 mph), Johnson claimed the pole for Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. His first career pole on a road course was by no means a thorough waxing of the field, though. Johnson won the pole by a scant .008 seconds over Kurt Busch.
In the Media Center here at Watkins Glen International, Johnson was very happy with his performance.
“A really cool day for us to be able to get the pole,” Johnson said. “We were close at Sonoma once or twice and I lost it by a small margin so to get it done hopefully shows the progress that [we’re] making on road courses.”
However, it was far from a perfect lap in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet that got Jimmie the pole, even though he topped the speed charts throughout practice.
“We had our issues during qualifying,” Johnson continued. “I was pretty nervous with the brakes and locked them up a couple times and made a few mistakes.”
Just behind Johnson was Kurt Busch in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. He was also fairly happy with his effort, but a little bummed out that he missed out on the pole.
“It was a solid run,” Busch said. “I feel bad that I didn’t deliver for my Miller Lite Dodge guys. I didn’t want to overdrive any of the corners [and as a result] left a little bit on each braking zone.”
Even though he was a little miffed about missing out on the pole, Kurt still showed that he had a sense of humor, noting at the end of the Q&A session that the audience was occupied by the TV. During Kurt Busch’s time at the podium in the Media Center, Jason Leffler had a spectacular crash exiting turn 9. The car spun around, hit the tires, and did a complete spin in mid-air before coming to rest partially blocking the road. A collective “Oh” came up from the media gallery at the time the replay was shown.
A full three tenths of a second separated the front-row starters from the third fastest qualifier, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was closely followed by Marcos Ambrose in the No. 47 Toyota. David Stremme qualified a surprising fifth. Six through 10 was headed by Ryan Newman. Greg Biffle qualified seventh, followed by Kyle Busch. Boris Said, who announced on Friday that Rick Clark has purchased 51% of Carter-Simo Racing, was the fastest Go-or-Go Home driver in ninth, despite not knowing a couple of days ago whether he would even be driving here. Monday’s second-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya rounds out the top 10.
Of the cars that had to qualify on speed, Said was the fastest of them, qualifying ninth in the U.S. Chrome sponsored No. 08 Ford. Row eight will feature two go-or-go homers with the No. 71 of Andy Lally qualifying 15th for his Sprint Cup Series debut. Max Papis will line up alongside. Scott Speed will start 26th, Ron Fellows qualified conservatively and will start 37th, PJ Jones will start 39th, Dave Blaney will start 41st and Tony Ave in the second Front Row Motorsports Dodge (No. 37) rounds out the field. The drivers who failed to qualify were Joe Nemechek, who lost an engine in practice this morning, Brian Simo and David Gilliland, who was driving the No. 70 this week.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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