Tardy Jimmie Johnson right on time for Pocono pole

Friday, Aug. 02, 2013

To be fast sometimes you have to go slow – at least through the NASCAR inspection line.

Jimmie Johnson, already in a strong position with a late qualifying draw, ended up going four spots later after his car was slow through NASCAR’s pre-qualifying inspection line.

Johnson and his team had to beat the five-minute clock to retain his ability to qualify, but it didn’t slow him down on the track.

Johnson’s lap Friday at 180.654 mph was not only good enough for the pole for Sunday’s 400 at Pocono Raceway, it also set a new track record. The previous record of 179.598 mph was set last June by Joey Logano.

The late-arrival-turned-pole didn’t escape comment by second-place qualifier Kyle Busch.

“Those guys seem to go through (inspection) four, five, six times and always seem to be fast. Maybe we need to be late,” Busch said.

Johnson said a measurement on the left-rear of his No. 48 Chevrolet was off by one one-thousandths of an inch and had to be fixed before the car could proceed to pit road.

“I wish there was some master plan behind it all. They’re all welcome to try it,” said Johnson, who set a track qualifying record for the second time this season.

“My heart was pounding out of my chest trying to get in the car and beat the clock. I don’t wish that on anyone.”

Johnson, who holds a 75-point lead in the series standings, has put himself in excellent position to grab an important advantage in the Chase should he complete the season sweep at Pocono.

Johnson and Matt Kenseth are currently tied with the most wins this season (four apiece). The drivers would start the Chase tied if that doesn’t change in the next six races.

“Even though I have a huge point lead right now I still have my eyes on three or four cars that I think will be the guys to deal with in the Chase,” Johnson said. “I watch them and their performance and how they run, especially on Chase tracks.

“There is nothing negative to come from the points lead and having a big one. I think race wins sends a really strong message, too, especially late in the regular season.

“If we could win some (more) races that would be another very helpful thing.”

Another win would also help heal any leftover hard feelings from last weekend’s second place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson led the most laps but fell far behind race winner Ryan Newman after a 17-second green-flag pit stop.

Johnson’s qualifying run was the 11th time this season a new track qualifying record has been set in the Cup series. The pole is the 31st of his career and third at Pocono.

Carl Edwards qualified third, last weekend’s race winner Ryan Newman was fourth and Kurt Busch was fifth.

“We got very fortunate with our (qualifying) draw. The track was getting faster and faster so that was very good for us,” Edwards said. “We didn’t expect to pick up that much (from practice).

“That was a nice surprise to drive down into Turn 1 and have that much grip. Starting position is really important here and we feel like we were pretty fast in race trim.” 400 Lineup

1.48Jimmie JohnsonChevy180.654
2.18Kyle BuschToyota180.639
3.99Carl EdwardsFord180.18
4.39Ryan NewmanChevy180.004
5.78Kurt BuschChevy179.695
6.22Joey LoganoFord179.601
7.16Greg BiffleFord179.533
8.9Marcos AmbroseFord179.329
9.11Denny HamlinToyota179.144
10.43Aric AlmirolaFord179.094
11.2Brad KeselowskiFord178.937
12.1Jamie McMurrayChevy178.848
13.31Jeff BurtonChevy178.667
14.29Kevin HarvickChevy178.508
15.51A J AllmendingerChevy178.501
16.15Clint BowyerToyota178.409
17.17Ricky Stenhouse, Jr..Ford178.264
18.5Kasey KahneChevy178.26
19.42Juan Pablo MontoyaChevy178.056
20.14Tony StewartChevy178.031
21.27Paul MenardChevy177.982
22.24Jeff GordonChevy177.658
23.93Travis KvapilToyota177.592
24.20Matt KensethToyota177.508
25.88Dale Earnhardt, Jr..Chevy177.441
26.56Martin Truex, Jr..Toyota177.239
27.98Michael McDowellFord177.221
28.55Mark MartinToyota176.991
29.13Casey MearsFord176.942
30.34David RaganFord176.838
31.30David StremmeToyota176.821
32.7Dave BlaneyChevy176.267
33.47Bobby LabonteToyota176.098
34.10Danica PatrickChevy175.86
35.83David ReutimannToyota175.743
36.36J.J. YeleyChevy175.179
37.38David GillilandFordOwnerPoints
38.40Landon CassillChevyOwnerPoints
39.87Joe NemechekToyotaOwnerPoints
40.35Josh WiseFordOwnerPoints
41.32Timmy HillFordOwnerPoints
42.19Alex KennedyToyotaOwnerPoints
43.33Tony RainesChevyOwnerPoints

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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