Jimmie Johnson wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole award since 2010 with a record-breaking lap speed of 181.818-mph.
As the only five-time champion in NASCAR’s history, Johnson now holds the track record over Kyle Busch who was awarded the distinction in the inaugural Quaker State 400’s practice session, when the traditional qualifying process was rained out in 2011.
Over the last couple years, qualifying has been a challenge for the No. 48 team. So Johnson was pleased with their 2012 qualifying performance at Kentucky Speedway’s first real qualifying event for the Sprint Cup series.
“It was a very comfortable lap, a very good lap. Qualifying has not been our strong suit the last two years, so we’re happy to get this pole today,” said Jimmie Johnson. “The conditions were so slick, it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for. We’re on the right track now.”
Although, this weekend is only the second Sprint Cup Series race at the track, Johnson says he’s not unfamiliar with it’s unique characteristics, which may have served him well in getting his car ready for qualifying and racing on Saturday night.
“This track has so much character. It would be great to win here at Kentucky. We used to test here a lot back in the day. Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few 48 race cars from us, so last year was good for me. I came back with a lot of confidence,” Johnson said.
|2012 Kentucky Pole Winner Jimmie Johnson
Photo – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Joining Jimmie Johnson on the front row, Kyle Busch will certainly provide some competition for the five-time champion in the Quaker State 400 as he became the first driver to earn race wins in four different series at Kentucky Speedway when he took the checkered flag at the last year’s Quaker State 400. Busch, known as a talented wheelman still start the race on Saturday night having led 704 of the 1,819 Kentucky Speedway laps he’s raced while racking up a total six top-five and eight top-ten finishes across a combined ten Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck, and ARCA Racing series starts.
Although his qualifying effort fell short of expectations, Kyle Busch goes into the Quaker State 400 with a level of confidence, based on his past performance at the track.
“I was certainly hoping for a little bit more there, but we weren’t able to achieve what we needed to,” said Kyle Busch. “We’re going into tomorrow night’s race with good pit selection and we’re starting up front, which is good for us. I typically don’t qualify well, but this is a place where we know what we have to do to qualify well.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin qualified third with a lap speed of 181.147-mph. But the challenge for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers continues to be their engine failures during the 2012 season thus far. The money question for the Gibbs racing drivers remains, will their engines hold up for the duration of the race tonight?
The inaugural Kentucky Speedway Nationwide series winner, Kevin Harvick will start along-side Denny Hamlin in the second row with his qualifying lap of 180.367-mph and will represent Richard Childress Racing in the quest to continue breaking records in the second annual event at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night.
Tune in tonight on TNT for their 6:30pm ET pre-race show with the race scheduled to begin around 7:30pm ET.
For this race, Fan4Racing is conducting a Race Day Chat on our Official Facebook page. Click the “Let’s Talk” chatroom link. Or fans can join the conversation by clicking the Race Day Chat page link on our Fan4Racing site. Space is limited, so plan to join us early. See you there!