Martinsville NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson takes pole

Jimmie Johnson claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's round seven of the Chase at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson takes pole

The Hendrick Motorsports driver scored his second pole during the play-off and probably the most valuable of the title battle thus far, beating the previous benchmark set by Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch with a lap of 19.415 seconds at an average speed of 97.598 mph.

Michael Waltrip Racing's Brian Vickers, who was fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, came closest to Johnson's lap and will share the front row with the five-time champion on Sunday.

"Track position is important and then that pit-road pick is so important," said Johnson. "We've been lucky in years past - I've been thinking in the spring we qualified 22nd and we still fortunately got a decent pit stall - but you take a lot more risks starting back there on the track and on pit road."

Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton held provisional pole for most of the session and ended up fourth behind Busch, whose JGR team-mate Denny Hamlin, currently third in the points, was fifth fastest ahead of Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth, the fastest Ford in the field.

Last year's event-winner and reigning champion Tony Stewart was seventh, followed by Clint Bowyer, fourth in the points with just four races remaining. Behind them RCR's Paul Menard and Richard Petty's Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.

Dale Earnhardt Jr, returning from a two-week absence due to his concussion diagnosis, will start from 20th on Sunday, right beside Furniture Row's Kurt Busch, while AJ Allmendinger was 26th in his third outing for Phoenix Racing.

Chase leader Brad Keselowski had yet another poor qualifying, finishing the session 32nd, his worst of the season, meaning this will be the fourth consecutive week he starts a Chase event from 20th or worst.

Michael McDowell was fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 21st, while Mike Bliss and JJ Yeley failed to make the field.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                     Time     Gap
 1.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet           19.402s
 2.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota               19.415s  + 0.013s
 3.  Kyle Busch          Gibbs Toyota                 19.436s  + 0.034s
 4.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet          19.443s  + 0.041s
 5.  Denny Hamlin        Gibbs Toyota                 19.445s  + 0.043s
 6.  Matt Kenseth        Roush Fenway Ford            19.467s  + 0.065s
 7.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       19.470s  + 0.068s
 8.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota               19.472s  + 0.070s
 9.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet          19.490s  + 0.088s
10.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                   19.500s  + 0.098s
11.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet           19.528s  + 0.126s
12.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota               19.529s  + 0.127s
13.  Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet          19.530s  + 0.128s
14.  Joey Logano         Gibbs Toyota                 19.541s  + 0.139s
15.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet           19.548s  + 0.146s
16.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford               19.554s  + 0.152s
17.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota         19.555s  + 0.153s
18.  Ryan Newman         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       19.555s  + 0.153s
19.  Kurt Busch          Furniture Row Chevrolet      19.572s  + 0.170s
20.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet           19.579s  + 0.177s
21.  Michael McDowell    Parsons Ford                 19.581s  + 0.179s
22.  Casey Mears         Germain Ford                 19.586s  + 0.184s
23.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford            19.592s  + 0.190s
24.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  19.607s  + 0.205s
25.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  19.616s  + 0.214s
26.  AJ Allmendinger     Phoenix Chevrolet            19.645s  + 0.243s
27.  Sam Hornish Jr      Penske Dodge                 19.669s  + 0.267s
28.  Ken Schrader        FAS Lane Ford                19.693s  + 0.291s
29.  David Reutimann     Baldwin Chevrolet            19.696s  + 0.294s
30.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford            19.702s  + 0.300s
31.  Josh Wise           Front Row Ford               19.712s  + 0.310s
32.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Dodge                 19.722s  + 0.320s
33.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                   19.728s  + 0.326s
34.  Landon Cassill      BK Toyota                    19.730s  + 0.328s
35.  Scott Riggs         R3 Chevrolet                 19.741s  + 0.339s
36.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford               19.741s  + 0.339s
37.  Dave Blaney         Baldwin Chevrolet            19.764s  + 0.362s
38.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                 19.792s  + 0.390s
39.  Reed Sorenson       Humphrey Smith Toyota        19.813s  + 0.411s
40.  David Stremme       Inception Toyota             19.819s  + 0.417s
41.  Travis Kvapil       BK Toyota                    19.820s  + 0.418s
42.  Stephen Leicht      Circle Sport Chevrolet       19.890s  + 0.488s
43.  Scott Speed         Leavine Ford                 19.954s  + 0.552s

Did not qualify:

     Mike Bliss          Humphrey Smith Toyota        20.015s  + 0.613s
     JJ Yeley            Max Q Chevrolet              20.015s  + 0.613s
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