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Johnson opens Chase campaign with pole position

Kenseth didn't sound quite so thrilled about his own qualifying run by contrast. "I was happy from the aspect that I got everything we could get out of it for today," he said. "I feel like I got a good lap but I think there is some more speed out there."

Having failed to sneak into the Chase, Carl Edwards ironically got one of his better qualifying results of recent weeks and will start form fifth place on Sunday alongside the third of the four Hendrick team mates, Kasey Kahne.

"It was a very good lap - that is a very fast race car," said Edwards. "My lap wasn't perfect but the speed was there. I am happy with it, I think it is really good. I don't know yet about race trim tomorrow - we are working on it still and hopefully it will be good. That is a good lap though."

Kahne was similarly happy with the outcome: "The car feels really good, I just kind of drove in a little too hard into one and I got tight because I over shot the corner," he recalled. "Once I got it to turn I felt really good from there out. I was happy with it. I think our race stuff will be really good tomorrow, I'm looking forward to it."

The final member of the four-man Hendrick squad - all of whom had made it into the 2012 Chase - is Jeff Gordon, but he was off the pace of his team mates on Saturday afternoon and will start the race from 19th position tomorrow.

"No near as good as good as I was hoping for," he admitted. "We ran the same time we did yesterday so it wasn't a very good lap. It's going to put us back. The car was a little bit loose, I think a lot of people are struggling with that."

By contrast to Johnson's opening success, reigning champion Tony Stewart slumped to 29th place in qualifying. Stewart can at least take small consolation in knowing that he is not the lowest of the Chase contenders on the grid tomorrow, with Kevin Harvick starting from 35th place.

Danica Patrick made it into the race on car owner points but will start down in 41st position. Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, JJ Yeley and Jason Leffler all failed to make the 43-car grid.

“It was loose, really loose," said Patrick, admitting that her lack of Cup experience was showing this weekend. "I'm definitely not good enough at this point to know how to fix that; or exactly what I even what I need even necessarily going into qualifying.

"I'm still at the point where we are going to have good things happen and bad things happen in the weekend. Definitely getting going in practice was a good thing for us and getting closer on race runs was a good thing for us," she continued. "The last one I did which was Atlanta: we popped off a good lap in qualifying but we weren't so great in practice. Here I would say we were better in practice but our qualifying lap wasn't any good.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, poses with his pole award after he was the fastest driver during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick finishes as the runner-up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Plaid Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 21, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, talks to Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, on the grid during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, November 20, 2015 Sunday`s final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for thirteenth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick will be joined by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Truex, Jr. will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, November 20, 2015 for Sunday`s Championship 4, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon will be joined by Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS to compete for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Sunday will be Gordon`s last race as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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