It took all day to get in but once the rain-delayed qualifying session got under way, Jimmie Johnson showed he’s going to be the man to beat again this weekend. The Chase leader posted the fastest time in the evening’s only practice session with a blistering lap of 192.486 mph. Rolling off twelfth for his qualifying run, Johnson put the hammer down and blew the competition away.
Laying down a lap of 28.070 seconds at a blistering speed of 192.376 mph, Johnson posted not only the fastest time of the session, but the fastest qualifying lap ever run in the new car. The previous record for the fastest qualifying time was set by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008 at a speed of 190.907 mph. Johnson’s lap was nearly a one-and-a half miles per hour faster.
“What a lap,” Johnson humbly said after his record-setting lap. “The speeds that we're running around here in the COT car are pretty amazing. It was just a great lap. We were great off the truck and were able to fine-tune a little bit and lay down another good one in qualifying.
“Man, its fast. You're not out of the gas long,” Johnson went on to say. “At the end of the straightway it doesn't seem that fast because you're going so fast through the turn that the novelty has worn off once you get on the straightaway and you can catch your breath and okay, here comes that corner again and you bomb it in there and blast another lap. Whatever is going on with the tire combination right now and the track, there is a ton of grip. These cars are putting up some fast laps."
Teammate Mark Martin gave Johnson his only scare of the session with a lap of 28.152 at 191.816 mph. Martin’s lap also broke Earnhardt’s previous mark in the new car. The second-place qualifying run gave Martin his tenth front row start of the season.
"I'm just so thankful,” Martin said with his usual smile. “I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys around to get a chance to drive Alan Gustafson's car and work with these guys. Man, they put some great stuff under me. It was so much fun to drive that car today, even though I only ran four laps. They were four great laps. I knew I needed to step up my game from practice and I did but it wasn't enough. I wanted to make sure I made it back, so at least I made it back.”
Also breaking the previous fastest-qualifying mark in a CoT was third-place qualifier Kasey Kahne. At one of his best tracks, Kahne is looking for his fourth win at the 1.5-mile Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Only tenth-fastest in the earlier practice session, Kahne was able to pick up over one mile an hour to earn his sixth top-5 qualifying run.
“It was a really good lap for our Budweiser Dodge,” Kahne said after his run. “We ran right about where we were in practice earlier today. I think that I gave up a little on entry in Turn 3 and that's probably where I lost time to Jimmie (Johnson). There's a lot of grip out there. It's really fast. It's really good right now. It was a good qualifying lap for us. I wish that I had another lap.”
Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth and Chase contender Tony Stewart rounded out the top-5. Ryan Newman, Mike Bliss, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch made up the rest of the top-10. Other Chase drivers outside the top-10 included Kurt Busch in 15th, Denny Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya in 17th and 18th respectively, Greg Biffle in 23rd, Carl Edwards in 28th and Brian Vickers in 30th.
Michael McDowell, Sterling Marlin, Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil failed to make the race.