Loudon, NH – Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski claimed the pole for the Camping World RV Sales 301 after setting a new track record in Friday's qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Keselowski made a record lap around this 1.058-mile oval at 135.922 mph. He earned his third career Sprint Cup pole. His first pole in the series came here in September 2010. Keselowski's most recent pole victory occurred in May 2011 at Charlotte (78 races ago).
"It's a good shot in the arm," Keselowski said. "This (No. 2 Penske Racing) team has the speed, and I feel we've got good execution. Things are starting to come together."
Johnson, who is the current points leader and winner of last Saturday's race at Daytona, held the provisional pole with a lap at 135.902 mph until Keselowski edged him by only 0.004 seconds.
However, Johnson's lap time/speed was disallowed after his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet failed post-qualifying inspection. Officials discovered that the front end of his car was too low. Just before making his lap, Johnson's team had trouble clearing the car during inspection due to a couple of minor issues. He was on the five-minute clock when his car had been completed through the initial inspection.
Johnson will start Sunday's 301-lap race from the rear of the 43-car field.
"Usually, if one thing is off then you have enough time to get through (inspection), but then we had a problem with the weight after that and had to come through a second set of scales to get it through," Johnson said after making his qualifying lap. "It was just two very minor things. That's how close the tech inspection process is."
The top-nine finishers in qualifying broke the previous track record of 135.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in July 2011.
Kurt Busch qualified third but will start on the front row with Keselowski due to Johnson's disallowed lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start third, followed by Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon.
Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton and Juan Pablo Montoya will roll off sixth through 10th, respectively. Kahne is the defending race winner, and Hamlin won the most recent event at New Hampshire last September.
Danica Patrick will start 32nd after posting a lap at 132.905 mph.
With eight races to go before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, Keselowski is 13th in the point standings. He has yet to win a race in the series this season. Keselowski finished 21st at Daytona.
"We had a great car at Daytona, but I didn't close it out at the end," he said. "We've had great cars at a couple of other places but haven't been able to close it out."