Johnson on Daytona 500 pole
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, February 11th 2008, 00:14 GMT|
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will start his title defence next weekend from pole position after setting the fastest lap in Sunday qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Johnson set a lap of 48.109 seconds, at an average speed of 187.075 mph, securing his first pole position of the 2008 season and running almost a tenth of a second quicker than the second-placed Toyota of Michael Waltrip, who secured the outside pole for next weekend's race.
"That was a great lap for us," Johnson said. "I thought with the wind it might slow the car down a little bit. The guys worked really hard to give me a car that we could come down here and race with and also contend for the pole with, so I am very proud and happy with this effort.
"Great engine, great body, great car. We saw what we could do last night with a backup car, so I couldn't be more proud of all my guys and all of Hendrick Motorsports."
The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who was close to winning the Bud Shootout on Saturday night with his backup car after crashing in practice, made the most of his fine-tuned Chevrolet Impala which had already been quickest in practice 24 hours earlier.
The gusty winds were the talking point of the session as they randomly affected some drivers more than others and caused some to lose the balance of their cars relative to Saturday's practice.
Michael Waltrip claimed he was the happiest man in Daytona because he was the fastest non-guaranteed driver and the only one of them to secure his starting position, as the grid for the Daytona 500 from the second row to the last row will be determined next Thursday through the Gatorade Duel qualifying races.
A year ago, Waltrip's car was caught during an inspection at Daytona with an illegal fuel additive in its engine's intake manifold and his team's cars struggled for speed. Twelve months later his squad is clearly on the road to recovery.
"Jimmie Johnson knew he was in the race when he got up this morning," Waltrip said. "I wasn't, so I'm going to have to say that I'm the happiest man in Daytona. It's a really good day for our team and I'm just thankful for the fact that we're here.
"There was the question a few months back of what was going to happen to us but we survived and now to be where we are is just a great feeling."
Joe Nemechek just missed out on the front row after holding on to pole position for a while and ending up third fastest in his Hendrick-engined Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet.
David Reutimann, who needed to qualify on time like Waltrip and Nemechek, ended up fourth fastest, secure that he will be on the grid for the season opener without needing a good result in the Gatorade Duels.
Four Toyotas were among the top ten in qualifying, confirming their testing speed with Dave Blaney setting the fifth fastest lap and Denny Hamlin ending up eighth. Boris Said also locked himself in the field with the ninth best lap of the day, while Jeff Gordon rounded up the top ten.
Patrick Carpentier was fastest among the Raybestos rookies, ending up eleventh, and will probably still need a good result next Thursday in the Gatorade Duel to lock himself in the field. However, he was happy with his qualifying effort.
"The wind is different than what we had yesterday and with these cars it seems like when it's windy it stops the front of the car a little bit so it gets you a bit more tight but we worked out through it so it should be good," he said.
"To do that time today pretty much backed up what we had yesterday so I'm very proud of it."
Meanwhile Jacques Villeneuve ended up disappointed with his run, which did not achieve what he was hoping for. Like Carpentier, he doesn't have his participation in the race guaranteed and he will have to wait until next Thursday to know if he will race or not in the Daytona 500.
"The balance was different than yesterday and I think we scrubbed off a little bit of speed," said Villeneuve. "During the quick lap I wasn't on the track where I wanted to be and probably lost a little bit.
"We were hoping to be quicker. We might need the qualifying races. When you have to qualify on time it makes it difficult because even if you're quick but not quick enough here you might have a bad qualifying race and not make the show so it's a little bit tough."
Dario Franchitti ended up 39th fastest, although he already has a starting spot guaranteed for the race and didn't need to rely on his qualifying speed. He says he is actually more focused on Thursday's Gatorade Duel, which will be his first ever Sprint Cup race.
"Hopefully it's one of those deals that if you're not going to be on the front row, just get yourself the best position that you can and look forward to Thursday and see if we've got a good race car, because that's going to be much more important than a qualifying car," the Scot said.
Sam Hornish Jr was the slowest rookie qualifier, although like Franchitti he is already qualified for the Daytona 500 thanks to his owner-points swap with Kurt Busch, who was not much faster than his rookie teammate ending up 31st.
Pos Driver Make Speed Time 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 187.075 48.109 2. Michael Waltrip Toyota 186.734 48.197 + 0.088 3. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 186.498 48.258 + 0.149 4. David Reutimann Toyota 186.463 48.267 + 0.158 5. Dave Blaney Toyota 186.120 48.356 + 0.247 6. Casey Mears Chevrolet 186.054 48.373 + 0.264 7. Travis Kvapil Ford 185.958 48.398 + 0.289 8. Denny Hamlin Toyota 185.947 48.401 + 0.292 9. Boris Said Ford 185.893 48.415 + 0.306 10. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 185.858 48.424 + 0.315 11. Patrick Carpentier Dodge 185.766 48.448 + 0.339 12. Tony Stewart Toyota 185.651 48.478 + 0.369 13. David Ragan Ford 185.594 48.493 + 0.384 14. Matt Kenseth Ford 185.517 48.513 + 0.404 15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 185.479 48.523 + 0.414 16. Brian Vickers Toyota 185.475 48.524 + 0.415 17. Jacques Villeneuve Toyota 185.452 48.530 + 0.421 18. Mark Martin Chevrolet 185.429 48.536 + 0.427 19. A.J. Allmendinger Toyota 185.422 48.538 + 0.429 20. David Gilliland Ford 185.410 48.541 + 0.432 21. Dale Jarrett Toyota 185.345 48.558 + 0.449 22. Scott Riggs Chevrolet 185.193 48.598 + 0.489 23. Ryan Newman Dodge 185.143 48.611 + 0.502 24. Greg Biffle Ford 185.071 48.630 + 0.521 25. Jamie McMurray Ford 185.010 48.646 + 0.537 26. Regan Smith Chevrolet 184.964 48.658 + 0.549 27. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 184.953 48.661 + 0.552 28. Robby Gordon Dodge 184.850 48.688 + 0.579 29. Kasey Kahne Dodge 184.828 48.694 + 0.585 30. Eric McClure Chevrolet 184.828 48.694 + 0.585 31. Kyle Busch Toyota 184.809 48.699 + 0.590 32. Jeremy Mayfield Chevrolet 184.612 48.751 + 0.642 33. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 184.589 48.757 + 0.648 34. Kurt Busch Dodge 184.540 48.770 + 0.661 35. Elliott Sadler Dodge 184.521 48.775 + 0.666 36. Carl Edwards Ford 184.487 48.784 + 0.675 37. Ken Schrader Dodge 184.483 48.785 + 0.676 38. Paul Menard Chevrolet 184.415 48.803 + 0.694 39. Dario Franchitti Dodge 184.351 48.820 + 0.711 40. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 184.290 48.836 + 0.727 41. Reed Sorenson Dodge 184.264 48.843 + 0.734 42. Juan Montoya Dodge 184.241 48.849 + 0.740 43. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 184.226 48.853 + 0.744 44. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 184.106 48.885 + 0.776 45. Bill Elliott Ford 184.090 48.889 + 0.780 46. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 183.884 48.944 + 0.835 47. Bobby Labonte Dodge 183.857 48.951 + 0.842 48. John Andretti Chevrolet 183.673 49.000 + 0.891 49. Kyle Petty Dodge 183.374 49.080 + 0.971 50. Sterling Marlin Chevrolet 183.326 49.093 + 0.984 51. J.J. Yeley Toyota 182.994 49.182 + 1.073 52. Stanton Barrett Chevrolet 182.823 49.228 + 1.119 53. Carl Long Dodge 180.796 49.780 + 1.671