Jimmie Johnson surprises with Texas pole in bizarre qualifying

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Jimmie Johnson surprises with Texas pole in bizarre qualifying
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Mar 30, 2019, 12:49 AM

Jimmie Johnson is back – at least on the pole of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

In another interesting Cup series qualifying experience, Johnson swept all three rounds and his average lap speed of 188.890 mph earned him the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. But the staging system in pitlane caused consternation ahead of the qualifying runs.

It’s Johnson’s first pole since 2016 at New Hampshire and the 36th of his career. The pole was somewhat of a surprise as Johnson – a nine-time winner at Martinsville – was coming off one of his worst performances at that track.

“It’s been a long couple of years and we still have a ways to go and certainly race day is much more important than Friday,” Johnson said as his former crew chief Chad Knaus congratulated him.

“We’re working so hard and I think we’re a bit guilty of trying too hard and maybe stepping outside of our comfort zone at times and putting set-ups on the car that just quite aren’t proven yet.

“With all that said, we were very aggressive coming here, changed a lot of stuff around on our mile-and-a-half program. Top of the charts all day long. It’s a great start. I’m really proud of everybody keeping the faith and working hard.”

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, William Byron, ended up second (188.416 mph) and fellow teammate Chase Elliott was third (188.271 mph). Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Denny Hamlin, Daniel Hemric, Joey Logano, Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones and Brad Keselowski.

Suarez and Jones both went out alone during the final round while the remaining 10 cars elected to wait until just over one minute remained on the clock to attempt their qualifying runs.

Round 2

Johnson again topped the leaderboard in the second round, even though he nearly ran out of time before completing two laps before time expired.

Johnson’s average lap speed of 187.957 mph topped Hemric (187.918 mph) and Logano (187.872 mph). Suarez and Hamlin completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Byron, Wallace, Ty Dillon, Elliott and Jones.

Suarez was the first driver to take to the track in the second round with just over three minutes remaining and completed his attempt with no drafting help and still ended up fourth-fastest.

Among those who failed to advance were Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.

Round 1

Johnson, who was fastest in Friday’s practice, led the way in the first round of knockout qualifying.

Johnson’s average lap speed of 188.627 mph topped Erik Jones (188.180 mph) and Austin Dillon (188.127 mph). Blaney was fourth and Byron completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Suarez, Elliott, Newman, Hemric and Almirola.

Among those who failed to advance to the second round were Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Preece and Kurt Busch.

With about three minutes, 50 seconds left, Bowman got into the Turn 2 wall, which brought out a caution. His team immediately brought out a backup car, which means he will have to start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field.

“There’s not much room for error when you’re running wide open around this place,” Bowman said.

Most cars waited until there was just over five minutes remaining before they made their first attempt to make qualifying runs.

Timmy Hill, Landon Cassill and Paul Menard were all penalized during the session for speeding on pit road.

Jones’ No. 20 Toyota failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, which resulted in the car chief being ejected from the remainder of the weekend. Jones will also lose 15 minutes in Saturday’s final practice.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Time Gap Mph
1 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 28.588   188.890
2 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 28.660 0.072 188.416
3 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 28.682 0.094 188.271
4 41 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Ford 28.741 0.153 187.885
5 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 28.862 0.274 187.097
6 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 28.895 0.307 186.884
7 8 United States Daniel Hemric  Chevrolet 28.905 0.317 186.819
8 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 28.928 0.340 186.670
9 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 28.956 0.368 186.490
10 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 28.990 0.402 186.271
11 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 29.071 0.483 185.752
12 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 29.412 0.824 183.599
13 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 28.927 0.339 186.677
14 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 28.937 0.349 186.612
15 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 28.964 0.376 186.438
16 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 28.971 0.383 186.393
17 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 28.971 0.383 186.393
18 6 United States Ryan Newman  Ford 29.005 0.417 186.175
19 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 29.016 0.428 186.104
20 19 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 29.161 0.573 185.179
21 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 29.226 0.638 184.767
22 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 29.282 0.694 184.414
23 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 30.135 1.547 179.194
24 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet      
25 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 29.096 0.508 185.593
26 95 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Toyota 29.110 0.522 185.503
27 47 United States Ryan Preece  Chevrolet 29.164 0.576 185.160
28 36 United States Matt Tifft  Ford 29.265 0.677 184.521
29 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 29.265 0.677 184.521
30 1 United States Kurt Busch  Chevrolet 29.283 0.695 184.407
31 32 United States Corey Lajoie  Ford 29.305 0.717 184.269
32 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 29.429 0.841 183.492
33 96 United States Parker Kligerman  Toyota 29.549 0.961 182.747
34 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Ford 29.844 1.256 180.941
35 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 29.987 1.399 180.078
36 52 Bayley Currey  Chevrolet 30.235 1.647 178.601
37 27 United States Reed Sorenson  Chevrolet 30.513 1.925 176.974
38 77 United States Garrett Smithley  Chevrolet 30.530 1.942 176.875
39 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 31.416 2.828 171.887
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About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Texas
Author Jim Utter
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