NASCAR: Rain gives Johnson pole
CONCORD ó Jimmie Johnson could only look at his car Thursday, spending most of the afternoon eating junk food in his team’s hauler and watching it rain.
Before nightfall, the Sprint Cup points leader had been awarded more treats ó the pole, the first pit stall, and likely five points for leading the first lap ó for the Bank of America 500 on Saturday night.
Johnson hopes the gift will help him regain his dominance at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
The steady drizzle that first canceled the afternoon practice session didn’t subside, and NASCAR called off qualifying 90 minutes before it was scheduled to begin.
The field was set based on owner points. Johnson and Carl Edwards, 72 points behind the leader, will start on the front row Saturday night in the midpoint race in the Chase for the championship.
After winning five of six points races at the track from 2003-05, Johnson hasn’t won since, coinciding with the track’s resurfacing. He finished 39th in May’s Coca-Cola 600 after blowing an engine.
“The advantage we had years back has kind of gone away,” Johnson said. “Kasey Kahne has more momentum here than just about anyone so far over the last two or three years. We’ve been right there. We’ve been a good top five car, but I hope we can get that magic back and find it here.”
Greg Biffle, 77 points behind Johnson, will start third, followed by Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.
The rainout leaves Edwards and Harvick in close proximity when the green flag waves.
“I don’t know how we would have qualified,” said Edwards, who declined to discuss the dustup with Harvick. “I think we were set up, prepared to really give a good effort qualifying. I don’t know if that affects us, made a big difference, but I’m really ready to race.”
Tony Stewart, who ended a 43-race winless streak Sunday at Talladega, will start seventh, followed by defending race champion Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The rain prevented four drivers of part-time teams a chance to make the race. Brad Keselowski, Scott Speed and Bryan Clauson were trying to make their first Sprint Cup start. Veteran Derrike Cope also went home.
AJ Allmendinger, let go by Red Bull Racing two weeks ago, did make the field in his first race in the No. 00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, because that team is 36th in owner points.
Kasey Kahne, who swept the All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 at LMS in the spring, will start 15th. But while he’s the hottest driver at the track, Johnson still earns respect at the place he once owned.
“I do think it’s a big advantage to start up front,” Johnson said. “The track has changed a lot, especially with this new asphalt that is down and the tire that we run on it.”
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