Jimmie Johnson claimed his first pole position since September 2010, when he pipped Kyle Busch to the top spot by 0.065s in qualifying at Kentucky Speedway late on Friday afternoon.
"Qualifying has not been our strong suit in the last couple of years," said Johnson. "I'm very happy to get this pole today. My Chevy's bad fast, and I'm looking forward to going racing."
Johnson's timed lap on the 1.5-mile oval was 29.700s (181.818mph), which was just good enough to put him on the top spot for the start of the Quaker State 400 NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday evening.
The last time that Johnson started on pole was 60 races ago at Dover in 2010, even though he's started in the top ten no less than 10 of the 16 races before now in 2012.
"We have been in a dry spell in qualifying, we have had a lot of seconds and a lot of very fast race cars," Johnson admitted. "I have always been much better at racing and I have always like to have a rabbit or somebody out there to chase and today you know, things went well in race trim and in qualifying trim and I got a great lap there in qualifying."
Qualifying was interrupted for 17 minutes by violent winds sweeping through the area which sent everyone scurrying for cover and many of the temporary structures around the speedway were violently knocked around. At least one pit lane worker was reported as having been sent to hospital for minor injuries sustained in the sudden chaos.
Once the winds subsided again it turned out that they had cooled the track considerably, which had added grip for the remaining 25 drivers still to make their laps - which included Johnson and Busch, and also Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick who will start from the second row.
"The track is much more friendly in cooler temperatures," admitted Johnson. "It's amazing with the 30-40 degree drop that we had and how much more grip there was in the track."
The fastest man before the windstorm had been Scott Speed, and the first man out after the hiatus - Tony Stewart - promptly beat his laptime by over two tenths. Speed ended up almost nine tenths off pole time by the end, the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 24th position on the grid. JJ Yeley and Mike Skinner were the two cars that failed to qualify for the race on speed.