Hendrick Motorsports

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Homestead qualifying: Johnson on pole

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 20, 2009) – Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, the final two contenders for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, qualified first and fourth, respectively, for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, earned his fourth pole position this season and the second of his career at the 1.5-mile racetrack by turning in a 31.409-second lap. The three-time defending Cup champion owns a 108-point lead in the driver standings and needs to finish 25th or better to lock up his fourth straight championship. The last time Johnson started from the pole position at Homestead was November 2007, and he went on to finish the event seventh.

“It does give you confidence,” Johnson said. “But qualifying trim on Friday is so different than what we’ll have tomorrow and then on Sunday. We don’t want to get cocky or too confident in what we did today. We’ll sleep well tonight, which is needed, and show up tomorrow and get to work.”

Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet, scored his fourth top-five starting spot of the Chase. If Johnson should finish 26th or worse, Martin needs to lead the most laps and win Sunday’s 400-mile affair to claim his first career Cup title. Currently, Martin ranks second in the driver standings.

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, scored the 20th starting spot. If Gordon can maintain his third-place ranking in the standings, Hendrick Motorsports can make Chase history if its drivers finish the postseason 1-2-3.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, will roll off the grid 33rd when the green flag drops on Sunday.

Race coverage of Sunday’s season-finale begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC.