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Johnson snags first road-course pole position

Jimmie Johnson hasn't won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race on a road course, but now he has a leg up on that accomplishment.

Johnson turned a lap in 71.340secs (123.633 mph) Friday at 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International to win the pole for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen, edging Kurt Busch (123.619 mph) for the top starting spot by 0.008 seconds.

The pole was Johnson's first of the season and the 20th of his career but his first on a road course. Denny Hamlin (123.093 mph) qualified third, followed by road-course ace Marcos Ambrose (123.045 mph) and David Stremme (122.824 mph), Busch's team-mate at Penkse Racing.

Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, road-course specialist Boris Said and Juan Pablo Montoya will take the green flag in positions six through tenth, respectively.

Casey Mears rolls off eleventh beside Kasey Kahne, a winner earlier this year at Infineon Raceway, who posted the 12th-fastest time. Series points leader Tony Stewart qualified 13th.

Johnson didn't put down a perfect lap, but it was fast enough.

"It was a really cool day for us, to get the pole," Johnson said. "We were close at Sonoma once or twice and lost it by small margins. But to get it done, hopefully, shows the progress that I'm making and the team is making on road courses.

"Today was just one lap, and there's a lot of laps to be made and a lot of racing on Sunday, but hopefully this is a sign of good things to come for us."

After watching Hamlin run 0.256 seconds slower than his fastest practice time, Kurt Busch decided to take a conservative approach.

"When I saw that Denny Hamlin ran a (71.65), I thought that that dropped off a bunch from his pace in practice, so that gave me the conservative mindset, and I just got beat flat out in the braking zones,” he said. "Yeah, it's tough to lose by eight thousandths, but it's a front-row starting spot, and the big prize is on Sunday."

Andy Lally qualified 15th and will make his Cup debut in Kevin Buckler's #71 Chevrolet. Tony Ave qualified 43rd in the #37 Dodge and will make his second Cup start. The first one came five years ago, also at Watkins Glen.

Joe Nemechek, Brian Simo and David Gilliland failed to qualify for Sunday's race.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Damage to the winshield of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Spring is Calling Chevrolet, is repaired on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS (left) battles Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet SS Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Busch won the race. Johnson finished second.  (Photo by HHP/Garry Eller for Chevy Racing)
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, signs the Coors Light Pole Award backdrop after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, talks to Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates setting the pole position in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates setting the pole position in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The #2 Wurth Ford, driven by Brad Keselowski (not pictured), goes through technical inspection during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)

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