With a lap time of 27.705 seconds (194.911 mph) in the third round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, Jimmie Johnson claimed the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
“It was a really strong lap,” Johnson said. “I’m very pleased with it. Happy to get this Lowe’s Chevrolet on pole for this big race coming up Sunday afternoon. We knew we had a great race car today, so it was nice to get out there and work our way through the three segments here and get it done. On the first run, we missed it a little bit, but (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) knew exactly how to dial me in for the second one. We got a lot closer, and for the third segment, laid down a good lap.”
Johnson was 13th in the first round of qualifying, but improved to fifth in round two.
It’s Johnson’s fourth pole at Charlotte. He went on to victory lane after two of those pole starts in 2004 and 2009. In all, Johnson is a six-time winner at CMS.
Johnson will be joined on the front row by Brad Keselowski, who posted a 27.754-second/194.567 mph lap in the third and final round to qualify second. Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick grabbed second-row starting spots, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five in qualifying.
“It was a solid qualifying session, a good starting spot,” Bowyer said. “Certainly, it’s pole day, so you want the pole, but nonetheless, top-five starting spot for a long race. It’s a good way to start the weekend.”
Chevrolets topped the speed charts in all three rounds of qualifying, with Kevin Harvick’s 27.845-second/193.931 mph lap was tops in the first round, and Patrick’s 27.750-second/194.595 mph lap was the best of round two. After a fast lap in the first round, Harvick wound up getting to the final round, only to fail to make a lap in round three. Matt Kenseth also failed to get on track after advancing to the final round.
Also making their ways to the third and final round to battle for spots in the top-12 of the starting grid were Denny Hamlin, who qualified sixth; Kyle Busch, who qualified seventh; Joey Logano in eighth; Marcos Ambrose in ninth; Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10th, Harvick 11th and Kenseth in 12th.
Forty-five drivers posted lap times in the first round, hoping to be among the 43 drivers expected to start Sunday’s race. J.J. Yeley and David Blaney were the two drivers who failed to make the race.
– Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images