Joliet, IL (Sports Network) - Championship contender Jimmie Johnson will start
on the pole for the first in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup after
posting the fastest lap in Saturday's qualifying at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson, who was the 23rd driver to qualify in the 47-car field for the Geico
400, turned a lap at 182.865 mph for his second pole of the season and the
27th of his Sprint Cup Series career. The five-time series champion begins
this year's Chase in the second seed, just three points behind Denny Hamlin.
"It's a great start for the weekend," Johnson said. "We did everything right
today, which I'm exited about. I have to say more than anything I'm excited,
because (in Friday's practice), we were fair and needed a little bit more. The
adjustments we made to our race car really helped today. We can apply that to
our race setup, and I think we'll be just right."
Johnson is the only driver who has qualified for the Chase each year since the
playoff system in NASCAR's premier series began in 2004. He also holds the
record for most postseason wins with 20. Johnson has yet to win a Sprint Cup
race at Chicagoland.
"We've been saying all along we're ready for this Chase to start, so we need
to go out there and prove it, and today was a start in the right direction,"
Aric Almirola, who is not in the Chase field, will share the front row with
Johnson after his qualifying lap at 182.636 mph.
Matt Kenseth qualified third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.
Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano completed the
Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne and Bowyer are other drivers in the Chase field.
The other title contenders and their starting positions include: Brad
Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr. (18th), Jeff Gordon (19th), Greg Biffle
(22nd), Tony Stewart (29th) and Kevin Harvick (35th).
Stewart won last year's Chase-opener at Chicagoland and went on to score four
more victories in the playoffs to capture his third series championship.
Danica Patrick will start 41st.
Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley and Jason Leffler failed to qualify for
Sunday's 400-mile race at Chicagoland, which is scheduled to start just after
2 p.m. (ET).
The Sports Network