His new track record puts him in position to win his second consecutive Pocono race from the pole, after dominating here in June.
Johnson’s pole did not come easily. His Chad Knaus-led team was forced to make a second trip through pre-qualifying NASCAR inspection, after officials determined the left-rear toe on the No. 48 Chevy to be 1/1,000th of an inch outside of tolerance. He was late to the qualifying grid and took to the track four cars later than scheduled, but incurred no penalty from NASCAR.
“It didn’t make a difference,” said Johnson of his pre-qualifying issue. “The system is a pass/fail, a thousandth of an inch. We got on the clock, which is always a scary thing… but we beat the clock.”
Kyle Busch qualified second, with Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch completing the Top-5.
“Track records are cool,” said Johnson after his fast lap. “It makes all drivers and teams smile. We got one at Martinsville this year and to get one here is really cool. I knew it was fast, I just didn’t know how fast. Each corner I made, I tried a little bit harder and was more aggressive with my entry speed (and) my throttle application. (I was) kind of challenging the car and it stuck.
“In some ways, I think I could have gone a little quicker,” admitted Johnson. “I’m sure a lot of guys are saying that in the garage area right now, to be honest. It was an interesting lap because I threw everything I thought I could at it in Turn One and it stuck. Turn Two, try again. Turn Three, try again and it made it all the way around.
“That was pretty awesome.”
The five-time Sprint Cup Series champion said Pocono Raceway is quickly becoming one of his favorite tracks, adding, “Shifting here makes this track so much fun. When we weren’t allowed to shift for a while, the fun factor kind of went down. The gear change allows you to help turn the car (and) makes it interesting.
“You’ve got to manage the (transmission),” he said. “There is an RPM match you have to get right getting into third gear. So it brings back a lot of fun for me. Trips to Victory Lane definitely increase the fun factor as well.
“Sunday, there is good potential for it to be pretty high on my list.”