Jimmie Johnson, driving the #48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet, won the Coors Light Pole Award for the 28th Annual Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 and set a new track qualifying record of 25.147 seconds or 143.158 mph beating Joey Logano, who set the record at Phoenix International Raceway last November, with a speed of 25.327 seconds or 142.141 mph.
This is Johnson’s 34th pole award in 506 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This is first pole for the 2015 season with his last pole coming in May 2014 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 58 races ago, and his third pole at Phoenix.
“This is a good roll for us, for sure,” said Johnson. “It’s good to have some of the swagger back…from the chassis, aero, engineering, the camaraderie amongst the team. We’ve been stacking pennies for a while.”
The six-time NASCAR champion was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship during the Challenger Round of 16. Johnson has five wins this season, but the #48 Chevrolet suffered a rear axle seal failure about a quarter of the way into the race at Dover International Speedway resulting in his elimination in the Chase.
With Johnson’s victory at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend it left the remaining seven Chase drivers, without a win, scrambling for one of the three remaining spots for the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to determine the champion. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon is the only driver to have secured a spot for the finale after his win at Martinsville Speedway.
Johnson doesn’t mean to cause headaches for the drivers still chasing a championship. He just wants to win races but his victory at Texas denied Brad Keselowski a spot in the finale and now Keselowski is on the verge of elimination 19 points behind the final transfer position currently held by Martin Truex Jr.
“I don’t think I want to play the spoiler; I want the #48 team to be everything it’s capable of,” Johnson said. “If we’re not in the Chase, I don’t want to just get in the way. I don’t mind being in this position, but I’d rather have sleepless nights, worrying about the Chase.”
The Hendricks’s #48 team efforts kept Kurt Busch, who is still in the Chase, from the top starting position for Sunday’s race followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third, Carl Edwards in fourth and Truex Jr. starting in fifth. Sixth through twelfth starting positions are as follows; Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, who is substituting for Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray.
The Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 will be on NBC, Sunday, November 15 with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET for the final race in the Eliminator Round.