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Johnson snares pole for finale

Points leader Jimmie Johnson snares pole for the final round of the NASCAR season at Homestead
Jimmie Johnson kept his promise - to try to qualify up front - and at the same time took another giant step toward his record fourth straight NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Turning a lap in 31.049 seconds (173.919 mph), Johnson won the pole for Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rookie Scott Speed, the last driver to attempt a qualifying lap, took advantage of the late draw and claimed the second starting position for the Cup finale at 172.695 mph.

Johnson, who can lock up the Cup title with a finish of 25th or better at the 1.5-mile track, said he "lessened the odds" of a title-robbing calamity by earning the top starting position. The pole is Johnson's fourth of the season, his second at Homestead and the 23rd of his career.

Marcos Ambrose qualified third at 172.678 mph, followed by Mark Martin, who is second in the Cup standings, 108 points behind Johnson. After the field takes the green flag Sunday, Martin will be the only driver with a chance to overtake his teammate for the championship.

"I'm definitely excited for the track position and (the choice of) that first pit stall," Johnson said. "One thing that you probably might know is how difficult pit road is here, with the sun setting, to find your pit box, or even see the parameters of your pit box. So there's a lot of reasons to qualify well, and I'm very happy that I did.

"There is some relief, but at the same time, I'm trying to keep it simple - yes, today's behind us, sleep well tonight, but treat tomorrow like a whole new day, first day at the track, start all over again."

Both Speed and Ambrose, hardly regulars at the front of the starting field, vowed to race Johnson hard, but respectfully.

"I think the thing we all fear most is being the idiot who takes out the 48 (Johnson) and ends the four-championship streak," Speed said.

Joe Nemechek, Dave Blaney, Mike Skinner, Max Papis and David Stremme failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

Terry Labonte will start 43rd on a past champion's provisional. Reed Sorenson spun during the second of his two qualifying laps but will start 42nd on an owner points provisional.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, wins the pole award after qualifying first for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2009 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, does a burn out after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag while winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the #62 South Point Chevrolet, leads during the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Green flag start of the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads during the NASCAR XFINITY Series U.S. Cellular 250 race, at Iowa Speedway on August 1, 2015 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on August 1, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, will be on the front row after qualifying for second position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Dillon is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Stewart is 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for sixth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Busch is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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