Johnson second, Kahne third in Darlington qualifying
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Jimmie Johnson edged teammate Kasey Kahne because of his ranking in the owner standings to earn the outside pole position during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Darlington Raceway.
Johnson, who ranks eighth in the owner standings, laid down an identical lap to 19th-place Kahne, who toured the 1.366-mile oval in 27.39 seconds at roughly 179.566 mph.
Kahne will line up third in his No. 5 Rockwell Tools Chevrolet, while Jeff Gordon will start 12th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off the grid in 24th.
In 49 Cup events (150 starts) at Darlington, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 13 wins, 39 top-five finishes and 63 top-10s. Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins and 1,720 laps led at the 1.366-mile oval.
Saturday’s race at Darlington Raceway will be broadcast on television (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX) and radio (6:30 p.m. on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Rockwell Tools Chevrolet
At Darlington: In nine Cup starts at Darlington Raceway, Kahne has earned three top-five finishes, including a fourth-place result in this race last year. Kahne, the defending Darlington pole winner, has four career pole positions at the track, which are the most for any active, fulltime driver there. His 2011 qualifying effort established a new track record with a lap of 181.254 mph. With a driver rating of 96.7, Kahne has the sixth-best driver rating at the Track Too Tough to Tame.
Most recently: The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet picked up his fourth consecutive top-10 finish of the season when he led 11 laps en route to a fourth place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last weekend. Kahne qualified fifth at Talladega, giving him a top-10 starting position in nine out of 10 races this season. After his strong performance at the superspeedway, Kahne improved four spots in the driver standings and now ranks 19th.
Kahne says: “It was great to have Rockwell Tools on board for the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck race at Rockingham, and I’m glad they’re stepping up to the Cup series. The (No.) 5 team has a lot of momentum right now, so I hope we can give them another win this weekend.”
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
At Darlington: In 31 Cup starts at Darlington, Gordon has earned seven wins, 18 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and three pole positions. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has led 1,720 laps – more than double the amount of any other driver competing in Saturday night’s race. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Gordon has the highest driver rating (116.2) among active drivers in the last seven races at the Track Too Tough to Tame. He also leads the average finish category (4.1) and laps run in the top 15 (2,420) within the same timeframe.
Most recently: Gordon earned his 71st pole at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet earned his third career pole at the superspeedway after touring the track in 49.97 seconds at roughly 191.623 mph. Gordon was collected by another competitor in a multi-car incident with 46 laps to go. He ultimately was scored 33rd for the 500-mile event and now ranks 23rd in the driver standings.
Gordon says: “I’m always excited about the trip to Darlington. This has been one of my favorites since I started racing in NASCAR. It’s a track you have to attack. It’s a track you have to respect because you are on the edge. Those ingredients have suited me and our team well over the years.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
At Darlington: In 13 Cup starts at Darlington, Johnson has two wins (March and November 2004), six top-five finishes and nine top-10s. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Kobalt Tools Chevrolet has the fourth-best driver rating (100.6) among active drivers in the last seven races at the Track Too Tough to Tame. Johnson ranks sixth in laps led (182) during the same timeframe.
Most recently: Johnson started from 19th and improved to run in the top 10 within the first 50 laps at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet led five laps at the Alabama oval before he was sidelined with an engine issue for the remainder of the race. Johnson ultimately was scored 35th and now ranks eighth in the driver standings.
Johnson says: “On the old track (Darlington Raceway), when it was worn out and ugly, nasty to drive, we were great there. Since they have repaved it, it’s been a bit of a challenge. It’s just so tough to pass there. I think your race strategy, fuel strategy, tire strategy is really more important than speed in the car. So hopefully we play that game right and put ourselves in a great position at the end of the race to win.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet
At Darlington: In 17 Cup starts at Darlington Raceway, Earnhardt has recorded three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks eighth in the driver rating category at Darlington with a score of 92.5. The driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet has completed 98.2 percent of all laps he’s attempted at the 1.366-mile track (5,732 laps of 5,836 total) and has led 170 of those laps.
Most recently: Earnhardt earned his sixth straight top-10 finish of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season after he crossed the line ninth last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet lined up 18th at the superspeedway and improved to run in the top 10 for much of the race. He led 10 laps en route to his ninth place finish. Earnhardt now ranks third in the driver standings.
Earnhardt says: “Darlington is a slick track and can be tough to get around. I hope we can go there and have a great run. We were good there last year, and I hope we can keep our consistency going. We feel confident we can win pretty much anywhere when we get it right.”