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LMS Success: Johnson Grabs Pole at Lowe’s

CONCORD, N.C. (May 27, 2004) – Jimmie Johnson continued his string of success at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Thursday, rocketing to his first pole position of the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season during time trials for Sunday’s 600-mile event.

Johnson, the 52nd of 52 drivers to make a qualifying run, knocked Ryan Newman from the top spot with a lap of 187.052 mph (28.869 seconds) in the No. 48 Lowe’s-sponsored Chevrolet.

“I’m just so thankful to have the crew guys every week that I do and Chad Knaus (crew chief),” said Johnson, who was also fastest in the pre-qualifying practice.  “There’s just something about this track that Chad likes and that I like.  We have the right package from Hendrick Motorsports and we’ve been good here.

“Thankfully, being the Lowe’s driver at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, I’m glad that this is one of my strongest tracks. It was a great effort and we’ve felt very comfortable and confident about our chances throughout the whole month of May when we were practicing and qualifying last week for the all-star event.”

Johnson was closely followed by his car owner and teammate Jeff Gordon, who nailed down the third position with a lap of 186.922 mph in the No. 24 DuPont Chevy.

“From the car to the engine to the people, the whole effort was awesome,” Gordon said.  “We unloaded and we were a little bit off.  We were pretty conservative when we unloaded.  We kept attacking and putting our best effort out there.

“Track conditions are fast right now and you can get really aggressive.  That’s a great effort. I’m really proud.”

It was Gordon’s fifth top-five qualifying run this season.

Rookie Brian Vickers wasn’t far behind his two teammates after posting the fifth-best lap of the day, which put a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the inside of the first three rows for Sunday’s 600-mile marathon.

“I felt like it was a pretty good run for the GMAC Chevy,” said Vickers, the top-qualifying rookie.  “We were third-quick in practice.  We came out in (the) top five for qualifying.  It’s our third top-10 start in a row and we’re happy about that.”

Driving the No. 84 CARQUEST Monte Carlo, Kyle Busch earned a place in the field with lap of 183.842 mph, putting him 27th on the starting grid for Sunday’s event.

The performance landed Busch a spot in his second career NEXTEL Cup race after successfully qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

Driving his No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy to a 183.461-mph lap, Terry Labonte landed a fifth Hendrick entry in the field.

The two-time Cup Series champion will start 35th on Sunday.

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