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Johnson wins Lowe's pole with new-car record lap

Chase leader Jimmie Johnson takes pole for the latest round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup
Rain or no rain, to Jimmie Johnson, it didn't matter - at least in terms of his starting position.

After a persistent drizzle subsided Thursday afternoon, Johnson, the leader in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, put his #48 Chevrolet on the pole for Saturday night's NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and he did so in record fashion.

Flying around 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway in 28.070 seconds (192.376 mph), Johnson posted the fastest qualifying lap ever run in NASCAR's new racecar, which was introduced to Cup competition in 2007.

He broke the mark of 190.907mph set by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas in April 2008, and in doing so, edged Hendrick Motorsports team-mate and second-place Chase driver Mark Martin (191.816mph) for the top spot.

The pole was Johnson's third of the season and the 22nd of his career. His has five victories at Lowe's, including four straight in 2004-2005, but hasn't won at the track since it was repaved before the 2006 Coca-Cola 600.

"Man, it's fast," said Johnson, who would have started from the pole in the event of a qualifying rainout as the top car in the standings. "You're not out of the gas long. At the end of the straightaway, 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.

"Whatever is going on with the tire combination right now and the track, there's a ton of grip. These cars are putting up some fast laps."

Kasey Kahne (191.056mph) will start third beside fourth-place qualifier Matt Kenseth (190.550mph), the only non-Chase driver to crack the top six. Stewart-Haas team-mates Tony Stewart (190.469mph) and Ryan Newman (190.416mph) earned the fifth and sixth starting positions during Thursday night's time trials.

Martin and Kahne also eclipsed the previous 2008 qualifying mark for the new car and expect the speed to carry over into Saturday night's race.

"An enormous amount of that speed was the track conditions," said Martin, who trails Johnson by twelve points with six races left in the Chase. "Surprisingly, it was really fast - grippy - for no rubber (after the rain). Sometimes this place needs rubber to get better.

"I think it's going to be great (Saturday). It's always great racing here and it continues to get better. And the teams continue to make the cars better."

Contact with Jeff Burton's Chevrolet during Thursday's practice damaged the nose of Juan Pablo Montoya's Chevy, but the third-place Chase driver didn't feel it hurt his qualifying effort. Nevertheless, Montoya's 18th-place starting position is his worst of the Chase so far.

Michael McDowell, Sterling Marlin, Dave Blaney and Travis Kvapil failed to qualify for the race.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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Jimmie Johnson - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, applies the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits along with the rest of the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, races to win with Kyle Larson, driver of the 42 Target Chevrolet SS beside him finishing in eighth place Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win with a burnout Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, takes the green flag waved by Evander Holyfield to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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