Jimmie Johnson captured the pole at Lowe’s Motor Speedway with a blistering lap of 28.079 seconds (192.376 mph) on a cold and damp Thursday night, setting the fastest time ever for the new car at LMS, and the third fastest pole speed ever at the track. Johnson bested the spring pole speed by a fraction under four mph. It is Johnson’s third pole of the year and the 22nd of his career.
“The old track really suited my style,” says Johnson, who has five wins at LMS but none since 2005. “When tracks are repaved, it brings the field together. In the last couple of years we’ve lost our advantage, and we’d like to get it back. The more I can have cool things happen and win races, the more I become aware of my place in the sport.”
Mark Martin was second with a lap of 28.152 seconds, making a sweep of the front row for Hendrick Motorsports. Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. Among the Chase contenders, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon also had top-10 efforts while Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers have their work cut out for them on Sunday after qualifying 28th and 30th respectively. Mike Bliss had the fastest lap of the drivers needing to qualify on speed with a 28.360-second run, good for seventh on the grid.
Johnson has five wins in 16 races at LMS. He currently leads the points, but his team has a slight unknown quantity – a new rear-tire changer after regular Jeremy West injured his back at Bristol. “We’re certainly concerned about it,” Johnson admits. “Team chemistry is an important part of what we do week in and week out… we’ve worked hard on those positions and the guys have been so good to us over the years. It’s unfortunate that Jeremy had a back issue.”
Johnson’s pit crew has had a few bobbles in the last few weeks; however, Johnson won last week at Fontana despite a small miscue in the pits, and says that the team is confident that they can contend for a sixth LMS win on Saturday night.