Reigning Nextel Cup champion and Chase leader Jimmie Johnson edged Juan Pablo Montoya to score his second pole position of the year in qualifying for the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway.
Johnson, a three-time winner at Dover, had been fastest in practice and backed that up with an impressive first qualifying lap, setting a time of 23.261 seconds at an average speed of 154.765 mph.
He beat Montoya's benchmark by 0.141 seconds en route to his first ever pole at NASCAR's 'monster mile'.
"It was a great lap. I've had a great car all day today and it was a car that allowed me to balance myself and find more speed, the two things that I asked it to do," Johnson said after claiming his 11th career Nextel Cup pole.
"Track position is really important here but the thing we really focused on today was getting that first pit stall. So mission accomplished there, but this is just one day of many long ones to come."
Just a day after celebrating his 32nd birthday, Montoya looked set to get his maiden Cup pole when he completed his run, going more than a tenth quicker than the fastest at the time. However, he had to settle for second for the third time this year, having started from the front row at Indy and Bristol already.
"Generally it was pretty good," Montoya said. "The car was a little loose in practice and there it got a little tight coming out of four. There might have been a bit more lap time in there. It's very important if you can start up front in tracks like this, it makes night and day (difference) for a good race."
Denny Hamlin, who had been second fastest in practice, also carried his speed into qualifying and ended up third, ahead of fellow Chase rival Kurt Busch, who managed to improve the tight handling of his car to make it looser for his qualifying run.
"We got the car pretty consistent from where we were," Hamlin said. "We really didn't make to many mistakes on the racetrack. We were just a little bit tight there and felt we gave up the pole out of [turn] four."
Martin Truex Jr, winner at this track in June and also a Chase contender, will be starting from fifth on Sunday. He will be partnered in the third row of the grid by Scott Riggs, who was fastest from the drivers who needed to qualify on time, at the wheel of the No. 10 Gillett Evernham Dodge.
Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, and the Roush Fenway Fords of Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, rounded up the top ten of the grid for Sunday's race.
Meanwhile AJ Allmendinger was the fastest Toyota driver qualifying 11th, despite a blown engine in the morning practice which prevented him from getting any running before qualifying. His miles at the wheel of Ganassi's Busch Series Dodge in practice this morning made up in some way for the lost track time on his Toyota.
"I really didn't know what to expect for that lap," said Allmendinger. "Basically we had a bungee cord holding the car in fourth gear. I have to thank BV (teammate Brian Vickers) and all his guys because that was his set-up in the car.
"All we could do was take what they had in their car in practice and they were fast and happy so that was our best shot."
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who rank second and third in the Chase, qualified way down and will start the race from the fourteenth row of the grid. However, of the Chase contenders it was New Hampshire winner Clint Bowyer who was the slowest qualifier, ending up the penultimate car on the grid.
Sam Hornish Jr, who was on his second attempt at making his maiden Nextel Cup start for Roger Penske, failed to do so again. He was a bit unlucky with his qualifying draw however, as he was the first driver to complete his run. He had been 38th in practice and went slower in qualifying, missing Sunday's race by quite a margin.
Michael Waltrip picked up the last spot on the grid, while Ward Burton, Scott Wimmer, Kevin Lepage, Dave Blaney and Jeremy Mayfield all failed to qualify.
Pos Driver Make Speed Time 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 154.766 23.261 2. Juan Montoya Dodge 153.833 23.402 + 0.141 3. Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 153.570 23.442 + 0.181 4. Kurt Busch Dodge 153.518 23.450 + 0.189 5. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 153.211 23.497 + 0.236 6. Scott Riggs Dodge 152.931 23.540 + 0.279 7. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 152.879 23.548 + 0.287 8. Bobby Labonte Dodge 152.439 23.616 + 0.355 9. Greg Biffle Ford 152.413 23.620 + 0.359 10. Matt Kenseth Ford 152.362 23.628 + 0.367 11. A.J. Allmendinger Toyota 152.362 23.628 + 0.367 12. Elliott Sadler Dodge 152.284 23.640 + 0.379 13. David Reutimann Toyota 152.066 23.674 + 0.413 14. Kasey Kahne Dodge 152.008 23.683 + 0.422 15. Carl Edwards Ford 151.796 23.716 + 0.455 16. Kyle Petty Dodge 151.771 23.720 + 0.459 17. Casey Mears Chevrolet 151.713 23.729 + 0.468 18. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 151.694 23.732 + 0.471 19. Dale Jarrett Toyota 151.668 23.736 + 0.475 20. Tony Raines Chevrolet 151.643 23.740 + 0.479 21. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 151.515 23.760 + 0.499 22. Kyle Busch Chevrolet 151.477 23.766 + 0.505 23. Brian Vickers Toyota 151.464 23.768 + 0.507 24. Ryan Newman Dodge 151.407 23.777 + 0.516 25. Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 151.381 23.781 + 0.520 26. Ken Schrader Ford 151.197 23.810 + 0.549 27. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 151.178 23.813 + 0.552 28. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 151.172 23.814 + 0.553 29. John Andretti Dodge 151.051 23.833 + 0.572 30. Jamie McMurray Ford 151.013 23.839 + 0.578 31. Mark Martin Chevrolet 150.912 23.855 + 0.594 32. J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 150.880 23.860 + 0.599 33. Reed Sorenson Dodge 150.880 23.860 + 0.599 34. Jeff Green Chevrolet 150.804 23.872 + 0.611 35. David Ragan Ford 150.628 23.900 + 0.639 36. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 150.420 23.933 + 0.672 37. David Gilliland Ford 149.782 24.035 + 0.774 38. Paul Menard Chevrolet 149.564 24.070 + 0.809 39. Kenny Wallace Ford 149.068 24.150 + 0.889 40. David Stremme Dodge 148.926 24.173 + 0.912 41. Robby Gordon Ford 148.173 24.296 + 1.035 42. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 148.038 24.318 + 1.057 43. Michael Waltrip Toyota 150.344 23.945 + 0.684