LONG POND, Pa. — 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 GoBowling.com 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.”
GoBowling.com 400 Lineup
|15.||51||A J Allmendinger||Chevy||178.501|
|17.||17||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr..||Ford||178.264|
|19.||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevy||178.056|
|25.||88||Dale Earnhardt, Jr..||Chevy||177.441|
|26.||56||Martin Truex, Jr..||Toyota||177.239|