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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)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, race into turn one during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Johnson is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, qualifies for 2nd position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (left) congratulates his son Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. This will mark Chase Elliott`s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Brett Moffitt, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
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