Jimmie Johnson Claims Top Spot at LiftMaster Pole Night
Jimmie Johnson captured the pole position during Thursday's LiftMaster Pole Day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, posting a lap of 194.911 mph in the final minutes of qualifying. It was Johnson's 33rd career pole and fourth pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway (third at the Coca-Cola 600).
"We executed, did our jobs," Johnson said. "When we qualify well, we race well. I'm very proud to have this Lowe's patriotic paint scheme on the race car. We look forward to giving it a good run Sunday night."
The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion hasn't won a race all year, and this was his first pole position under the new qualifying format. And although it might not be enough to silence his critics, it was plenty to energize Johnson and his team.
"No matter what we do, I think people are going to talk about the 48," Johnson said.
Brad Keselowski qualified second, and Kasey Kahne will start third in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
"We've been second a bunch this year, I don't know the stats," Keselowski said. "It's like kissing your sister."
Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth misjudged the amount of time remaining in the final qualifying session and did not post a time, failing to complete laps within the segment.
"No way!" Johnson said in his post-race press conference. "I didn't even know that. That's shocking. I'm sure there's an interesting meeting going on somewhere. Two of them."
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Danica Patrick, who qualified fourth with a lap at 193.334 mph and also had the fastest lap of the second qualifying segment. It was her best qualifying effort at a non-restrictor-plate race.
The Coca-Cola 600, the Ultimate Test of Man and Machine, will go green Sunday 6:20 p.m.
LiftMaster Pole Day Quotes
Jimmie Johnson (Pole Winner, No. 48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet) - "We executed, did our jobs. When we qualify well, we race well. I'm very proud to have this Lowe's Patriotic paint scheme on the race car. We look forward to giving it a good run Sunday night. It's nice to have a fast car off the truck. I think we were either second or third in the first practice session. The practice on Saturday is really going to be the goal for us. We got some good ideas to help secure the car up and get the clean air balance versus the traffic balance. That's what we are working on. Today it was really interesting to start with the sun out and the warmer temperatures, and as the sessions went on, the grip level came in, the adjustments came in, and the car got better and better. I had my fastest lap around here in the third session. It's kind of mind-boggling to see how that works out. I'm very proud of the team. We had a strong race car all day and obviously we got the pole."
Brad Keselowski (Second-place qualifier, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) - "We don't trust any practice speeds right now. We will have to see what shows up here when it counts on Sunday. Obviously, we practice during the day and race into the night. We are pretty happy with our qualifying today. We were pretty terrible to begin with, but it was a tribute to my guys. It worked out we finished second, I'm not really sure how. The first round we were 24th and the second round we were like seventh or eighth. In the third round we seemed to find a little more, and ended up second. I'm proud of that effort for my guys to see their hard work rewarded. But the main goal is to win Sunday. I hope that we can pull that off."
Kasey Kahne (Third-place qualifier, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) - "So far so good. We want to run as much as we can on Saturday, you know, longer runs and things. It felt pretty good in qualifying. We just seemed to give up a little bit going into Turn 3 on all three of my runs. We are working on that and just trying to keep the car on track and keep it free throughout the laps. It ended up being pretty good for us. I was pretty happy with the car today."
ELLIOTT TOPS NATIONWIDE SPEED CHART: The Elliott household has had a rather busy week. Last Saturday, Chase Elliott graduated from high school. Wednesday night, Bill Elliott was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Chase Elliott has moved into his own apartment in Charlotte, where he will live when he's not at the family home in Dawsonville, Ga. Thursday, the whole Elliott clan was back at Charlotte Motor Speedway, watching Chase Elliott top the speed chart in the final NASCAR Nationwide Series practice session.
Admittedly, that means very little, as Chase Elliott quickly pointed out, yet it does continue a heck of a week for the Elliott clan.
"Dad being elected to the Hall of Fame is way cool, and he's very deserving of that - that's definitely been the highlight of our week so far, and now we're looking forward to going racing," Chase Elliott said. "Graduation's in the past now, so it's good to get that behind me and kind of get that whole weekend done with. It was a little busy and we're ready to get this rolling."
Chase got it rolling with a the final practice session's fastest lap of 178.330 mph. Brian Scott had the fastest overall lap of the day in the first practice session, at 178.664 mph.
"I thought we needed a lot of work after the first practice, and I think we got our stuff better in the second one," Elliott said. "I wasn't super impressed with that. Those other guys are fast, and some guys I felt like could hold their speed a little longer than we could. It's not exactly where I want it, but we've got some good notes and hopefully we can make the right guesses for the race."
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will return to the track for a full day of qualifying and racing Saturday. Qualifying begins at 10:40 a.m., and the green flag falls for the History 300 at 2:45 p.m.