Johnson claims pole at Dover

Updated: September 26, 2009, 10:20 AM ET
Associated Press

DOVER, Del. -- Jimmie Johnson will go for the Dover sweep from the pole.

Johnson turned a lap of 157.356 mph on Friday at Dover International Speedway and will start first for only the second time this season. He led a career-high 298 laps in May to win at the Monster Mile.

"A pole today will make the start of the weekend much better and give us a lot of direction and momentum moving into tomorrow," Johnson said. "It does carry you, and there is an aspect of momentum. But at the same time, you've got to go out and perform."

[+] EnlargeJimmie Johnson
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesJimmie Johnson has four career victories at Dover and had one of the more dominating performances of his career on the concrete track the last time out.

The top four spots at qualifying spots for Sunday's race all went to Chase for the championship drivers. Juan Pablo Montoya was second, Ryan Newman third and Greg Biffle fourth.

"When Jimmie ran those laps in practice, I knew unless he did a huge mistake, we're not going to get that pole," Montoya said. "There was no way I was going to get any more out of the car. I didn't have anything else."

Johnson has four career victories at Dover and had one of the more dominating performances of his career on the concrete track the last time out. He led the majority of the race until a poor pit stop dropped him back in the field and he had to chase down Tony Stewart before pulling into Victory Lane a winner.

"You kind of hope things end up your way with pit strategy," Johnson said. "It's important to have a fast and stable race car so that you can come up through the pack if you lose track position. I think it was real helpful for us in the spring race. If I didn't have a comfortable car to drive, I wouldn't have gone anywhere."

The remainder of the Chase drivers were scattered among the field.

Kasey Kahne was sixth and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon seventh. Brian Vickers was 12th and Denny Hamlin 13th. Points leader Mark Martin qualified 14th and Kurt Busch was 16th.

Kahne needed to strong starting position to bolster his chances of a top-10 finish and bouncing back from placing 39th in the Chase opener at New Hampshire after he lost his motor early. He is 12th in the standings, 161 points out of first place and 48 out of 11th.

"We're definitely in a hole, that's part of it," he said. "Hopefully everybody has a bad race and if not, if some of them do, we gain some points back and just do the best job that we can. At this point, all that we can do is try hard."

Two-time Cup champion Stewart was 22nd and Carl Edwards was the lowest Chase qualifier, starting 30th.

Martin holds only a 35-point lead over Johnson in the points standings. While Martin is chasing his first career Cup title, Johnson is poised to win his fourth straight in the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Johnson knows title No. 4 isn't automatic. He remembered in 2004 how he "felt in my body" that it was his year to win his first championship. That destined championship would have to wait.

But since Johnson won that first one, he hasn't let go.

"They've all been different, but at the end of the day it's been about people and the team working together and fighting through issues," he said.

Johnson took his 21st career pole and has his 21st top-10 start this season.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press