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CUP: Johnson On Pole At Bristol

Jimmie Johnson’s struggles at Bristol Motor Speedway appear to be a thing of the past.

PDF > STARTING LINEUP BY ROW: IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE - BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAYPDF > QUALIFYING RESULTS: IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE- BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

After finally winning his first Bristol race in the spring, on Friday Johnson claimed the pole for tomorrow night’s Irwin Tools Night Race with a lap of 123.475 miles per hour in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

The pole was Johnson’s 24th of his career and the first at both BMS and the 2010 season. He benefitted by a great qualifying draw, going out 35th, the final qualifier of the locked-in drivers.

“Although we’re in a decent place in the points, I don’t feel like I can throw caution to the wind here this weekend,” said Johnson. “I need a good top-five finish, get some points. Obviously a win would be the way to go.”

Starting outside of the No. 48 on Row 1 will be Carl Edwards, the man Johnson dueled with for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Edwards had a lap of 122.937 mph in his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Edwards, a two-time Bristol winner, expects a difficult battle under the lights on Saturday night. “It’s a tough track,” he said. “Everyone is very close and the track seems to be very line sensitive, so I think you’ll see a lot of different grooves being utilized the next two nights.”

On Row 2 will be a pair of former Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart. Logano, the spring Bristol pole winner, claimed the No. 3 starting spot with a lap of 122.764 mph in his Home Depot-sponsored Toyota.

“This 20 team deserves it,” said Logano. “They work really hard. We always have fast race cars here at Bristol. I just have to find a way to seal the deal.”

Stewart ran 122.584 in his No. 14 Stewart Haas-Racing Chevrolet. “I’m happy with that lap,” said Stewart. “I’m really excited for my guys.”

Row 3 will be David Reutimann, who bounced back from food poisoning to qualifying his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota at 122.497 mph, and Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman, 122.372 mph in the No. 39 SHR Chevrolet.

Newman comes into the race 14th in points, 103 back of 12th-place Clint Bowyer. The Indiana native thinks he can still make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for a second consecutive season with SHR.

“We can, yeah. ... it’s going to take some good racing luck on our part and some bad racing luck on their part, and we haven’t had much, so maybe we’re due,” said Newman.

Completing the top 10 were Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and AJ Allmendinger.

Jeff Gordon spun on his warm-up lap, but because he did not take the green flag to begin his qualifying lap, he was allowed to change tires and qualify. He ended the session 26th, one spot ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Failing to qualify were Mike Bliss, JJ Yeley, Kevin Lepage, Joe Nemechek, Brian Keselowski and Dave Blaney.

PDF > STARTING LINEUP BY ROW: IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE - BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAYPDF > QUALIFYING RESULTS: IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE- BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.