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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)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, talks with the media following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished in 5th position and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS finished in 12th position Sunday, October 19, 2014 in the final Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who was in the Chase, advances to the Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase which begins next week at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Kahne, who was also in the Chase, did not advance. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The crew of Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, leads the field near the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, races Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with an American flag after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redd`s Wicked Apple Ale Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth at Watkins Glen. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualified for 39th position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet SS qualified for eighth position Saturday, October 18, 2014 for Sunday`s Contender 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Khane, who is in the Chase, is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Sunday is the final round of the Contender 12 phase of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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