Long Pond, PA – Jimmie Johnson continued his dominance at Pocono Raceway this season by winning the pole for Sunday's 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race with a new track qualifying record.
Johnson, the current points leader, posted a record lap around this 2.5-mile triangular racetrack at 180.654 mph in Friday's qualifying. The Hendrick Motorsports driver and five-time Sprint Cup champion earned his 31st career pole victory, including his third at Pocono.
Prior to his qualifying run, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet had to go through pre- qualifying inspection twice. There was a slight issue with the car when it went through inspection the first time.
"The left rear toe (on the car) was off by a whopping one thousandth of an inch, so we had to go back through and pass inspection, which put us out late to the grid," Johnson said. "It was definitely a stressful time for the guys (No. 48 crew). I feel bad for them having to push the heavy race car out there, running out there to beat the clock. They got it done and got it right.
"I had some time in the car to kind of catch my breath and focus on my lap. The lap was awesome."
Johnson will attempt to score a season-sweep at Pocono this weekend. He started first and led 128 of 160 laps en route to victory in the June race here. Johnson did not win the pole for that event since qualifying was rained out. His first pole victory this season came in April at Martinsville, where he also set a new track qualifying record.
Kyle Busch earned the outside pole after finishing a close second in qualifying. Busch's lap at 180.639 mph was only 0.004 seconds behind Johnson.
"You come here and you get so close that you're only four thousandths (of a second) off," Busch said. "It would be nice to have that (pole) going into Sunday, especially being able to start first and being able to get the number- one pit selection. We'll take it. It was a good effort and hopefully keep our car that good and if not better so we can beat the other guy that beat us here today."
Last week, Johnson held the provisional pole for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway until Ryan Newman, who was the last driver in the qualifying order, topped Johnson's lap to claim the pole. Newman won the race at Indy, while Johnson finished second.
Carl Edwards qualified third, followed by Newman, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano. The top-six drivers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 179.598 mph, set by Logano in June 2012.
A track qualifying record has been broken 11 times this season with NASCAR's new Sprint Cup race car, the Gen-6.
Greg Biffle took the seventh spot, while Marcos Ambrose, Denny Hamlin and Aric Almirola completed the top-10.
Jeff Gordon, who won at Pocono one year ago, qualified 22nd. Dale Earnhardt Jr. placed three spots behind his teammate Gordon. Danica Patrick will start 34th.
All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's race at Pocono, which is scheduled to start shortly after 1 p.m. ET.