Johnson wins Charlotte pole, Kahne and Earnhardt qualify in top 10
CONCORD, N.C. - Jimmie Johnson posted the fastest lap midway through the final round of qualifying on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and held on to claim his first pole position of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet SS toured the 1.5-mile oval in 27.705 seconds at roughly 194.911mph. This is Johnson's 33rd career Cup pole position and his fourth at Charlotte. When starting from the pole at Charlotte, Johnson has two wins and a 3.75 average finish.
The pole position is the first for Hendrick Motorsports in the knockout qualifying format and the 197th of the organization's Cup career. Charlotte becomes the third track where Hendrick Motorsports has an organization-best 17 pole positions. Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway and Richmond (Virginia) International Raceway are the others.
Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Johnson in the top 10, qualifying third and 10th, respectively. Their Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon earned the 27th starting spot.
In 60 events (203 starts) at Charlotte, Hendrick Motorsports has 17 wins, which ranks first all-time among teams at the 1.5-mile oval. Kahne most recently won the 600-mile event there in May 2012 and has four career victories at Charlotte. Kahne’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson (six victories) and Gordon (five) rank first and second, respectively, among active drivers in wins at the 1.5-mile track. Hendrick Motorsports has 54 top-five finishes and 84 top-10s and has led 4,459 laps at Charlotte since 1984.
Sunday's Cup race will be televised at 5:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Check local listings.
Here is a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports teams have fared in the 600-mile event:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE "THANK A MILLION TEACHERS" CHEVROLET SS
CHARLOTTE WINNER: Kahne recorded his first win for Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte’s 600-mile event in May 2012 after leading 96 laps and establishing a 4.295-second margin of victory. The win happened in his milestone 300th Sprint Cup start. In 20 Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile track, Kahne has posted four wins, nine top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and led a total of 1,106 laps. In 2013, Kahne posted two runner-up finishes at the Charlotte racetrack, leading a total of 299 of 734 laps. Overall, Kahne and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers with three runner-up finishes at Charlotte.
AT CHARLOTTE: Nearly every statistical category at Charlotte ranks as a personal best for Kahne, who has competed in 20 Cup events at the 1.5-mile oval. Kahne’s four wins and 12 top-10s are personal bests as well as his nine top-five finishes. Kahne has completed 97.2 percent of the laps he has attempted at Charlotte and has led a personal best 1,106 laps at the track. His 11.4 average finish at Charlotte ranks as his second-best among active tracks.
CHARLOTTE LOOP DATA: In the last 18 points-paying events at Charlotte, Kahne ranks first for average finish (10.2), fastest laps run (662) and laps led (894). He ranks third in the following categories: green-flag passes (1,432), average running position (11.263), fastest drivers early in a run (178.271 mph), third in fastest on restarts (170.422 mph), speed in traffic (175.282 mph) and green-flag speed (176.273 mph). During the same period, he also ranks fourth in laps in top 15 (4,462), fourth in quality passes (814) and sixth on fastest drivers late in a run (174.574 mph).
INTERMEDIATE TRACK STATS: Kahne has collected nine of his 16 career Cup wins and 15 of his 26 pole positions on tracks one-to-two miles in length. In 178 starts on these tracks, he has posted 43 top-five finishes and 72 top-10s.
CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-863 for Sunday’s race at Charlotte. Kahne drove this chassis to an 11th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in April.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS
POINTS LEADER: Following his win in Kansas, Gordon remained the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader and is 15 points ahead of Matt Kenseth. Both drivers are tied for the most top-10s in 2014 with eight apiece.
ONLY ONE TOP-10: Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, is the only Cup competitor to have a top-10 average finishing position (9.2) through the first 11 races of the 2014 season.
AT CHARLOTTE: The 42-year-old driver has five wins, nine pole positions, 16 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s in 42 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
20TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST WIN: On May 29, 1994, Gordon led the final nine laps at CMS to capture his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
CHASSIS CHOICE: No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-861 for this Sunday night’s race. This chassis has been raced twice previously with finishes of seventh and 13th earlier this year at Darlington Raceway and Auto Club Speedway, respectively.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET SS
SEASON-TO-DATE: After 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, Jimmie Johnson owns the fourth-highest driver rating with a score of 102.9 and ranks seventh in the driver standings. His 527 laps led rank second just behind Kevin Harvick (672 laps led).
AT CHARLOTTE: In 25 Cup starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson has six wins, 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s. He has completed 97.1 percent of laps run (8,594 of 8,852 laps) and has led 1,569 laps around the 1.5-mile oval. A three-time pole winner, Johnson has an average start of 7.4 and an average finish of 11.6.
PATRIOTIC SCHEME: Each year since 2001, Lowe’s has designed a patriotic-themed car for Johnson to drive at Charlotte in May. The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS scheme for this weekend is a throwback to the 2010 Memorial Day car, which was heralded as a fan-favorite through a recent social media poll. Johnson also drove this scheme last weekend in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
CHASSIS CHOICES: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-797 for this weekend’s 600-mile event. Johnson last raced this car in April at Texas Motor Speedway. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-728, which Johnson most recently raced at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/SUPERMAN CHEVROLET SS
SUPERMAN CAR: Superman, the world’s first and most recognized Super Hero, will be featured on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Superman-themed paint scheme will pair the Army National Guard with the Superman Hall of Heroes, a new online gift-giving portal that empowers consumers to honor their personal heroes; those who have made a positive impact on their lives or the lives of others. Visit www.supermanhallofheroes.com for more information.
AT CHARLOTTE: In 28 Cup starts at Charlotte, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. He has completed 94.1 percent of all laps he's attempted (9,454 laps of 10,052 total) at the 1.5-mile oval. The 39-year-old driver has led a total of 343 laps there.
CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend at Charlotte, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew have unloaded Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-882. This is a new chassis that has not been raced.