Jimmie Johnson, who after having issues in tech and sprinting to the qualifying grid, flew his Disney Planes car to the head of the field to qualify P1 for the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Johnson put his No. 48 Lowe’s Planes Chevrolet into pole position with a speed of 180.654 miles per hour and a time of 49.819 seconds, scoring a new track record.
This was Johnson’s second pole of the 2013 season, his 31st pole in his 420 Cup Series races and his third pole at Pocono Raceway. This was also the eleventh track qualifying record broken so far this year by the new Gen-6 race car.
“I knew it was fast but I didn’t know how fast,” Johnson said. “I was challenging the car and it stuck.”
“Track records are cool,” Johnson continued. “It makes all drivers and teams smile.”
Johnson had an interesting time making it to the qualifying grid, once again having difficulty getting through tech and having to run with his car and team to make it in time.
“We had the left rear tow off by one thousandth of an inch,” Johnson said. “We got on the clock, which is always a scary thing, but we beat the clock.”
“I’m glad we got it sorted out.”
Johnson said that he would not wish that stress on any other driver and took exception to the notion that his team might have delayed a bit to go out a bit later in the qualifying order.
“I wish there was some master plan behind it,” Johnson said. “My heart was pounding out of my chest and I don’t wish that stress on anyone.”
“That’s not what I want to go through.”
Johnson admitted that in spite of the stress, both he and his crew chief Chad Knaus really do enjoy the ‘Tricky Triangle’ and all of its challenges.
“Shifting here makes this track so much fun,” Johnson said. “The gear change makes in interesting.”
“We have excelled on quirky race tracks,” Johnson continued. “Chad really enjoys setting up the car and the engineering side of it.”
“We’ve had that knack for odd-shaped race tracks.”
Kyle Busch, in the No. 18 M&Ms Peanut Butter Toyota, came in runner up in the qualifying effort, with a speed of 180.639 miles per hour and a time of 49.823 seconds. This will be Busch’s 17th top-10 start of 2013 and his tenth top-10 start in 18 races at Pocono.
“Our Peanut Butter Camry was really fast in practice today,” Busch said. “One run we got a little bit off base but then we backed it right up and the third run we were pretty good.”
“So, we were excited going into qualifying,” Busch continued. “Fortunately, it was a really fast lap for going that early in qualifying.”
Busch admitted that going later in the qualifying order would have been beneficial, especially at a track where pit selection and track position are key.
“I wish we would have gone later because we would have had a better race track, but it was about all I could get,” Busch said. “I wish it was the pole.”
“That’s what you’d like to have,” Busch continued. “You get so close and it would be nice to have that award, being able to start first and get the number one pit selection.”
“We’ll take it,” Busch said. “It was a good effort.”
“And hopefully our car will be better and beat the other guy who beat us today.”
Busch did, however, take a bit of a jab at pole sitter Johnson during his media availability after his qualifying run.
“Probably not the clock that he was on made the difference but the draw he had being twenty cars later was beneficial,” Busch said. “It’s just that a lot of these other teams figure out how to play by the rules, you know.”
“It seems like there is one that is quite often late, more often than the rest.”
Carl Edwards was the fastest Ford in qualifying, with a time of 49.950 seconds and a speed of 180.180. The driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford came in third in the Pocono time trials.
Edwards posted his seventh top-10 start at Pocono and his eleventh top-10 start in 21 races this season.
“We got very fortunate with our draw because the track kept getting faster and faster,” Edwards said. “That and my superior skills and my humility helped.”
“We didn’t expect to pick up that much and have that much grip,” Edwards continued. “Starting position is really important here.”
“I’m ready to go racing,” Edwards said. “I’m pretty excited about hopefully our turnaround from last week because that was miserable.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation 30th Anniversary Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch in the NO. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
“It was a good lap,” Newman said. “We picked up a second from what we practiced.”
“Man that is fast here.”
“To go for the pole, we were just a little bit too tight,” Busch said. “The pace was so fast that you are on the edge.”
Three Fords took the sixth, seventh and eighth spots in qualifying, with Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose in those spots respectively.
“Yeah, that was not bad,” Logano, behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, said. “I feel like my lap was pretty good.”
“I think I got what I needed,” Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford, said. “I’m really happy with that lap and our pick up.”
“I wish I would have gotten a little more out of it but that’s all the car had.”
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota, and Aric Almirola, in the Petty No. 43 GoBowling.com Ford, qualified in the ninth and tenth spots.
“That was definitely good pick up,” Almirola said. “We had to make so many adjustments and I was trying to be a little conservative.”
“I will take that.”