By David Pooledpoole@charlotteobserver.com
LONG POND, Pa. – Once he got avoided a bad hair day, everything else just sort of fell right into place for Jimmie Johnson on Friday.Rolling into Pocono Raceway with momentum from his win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, Johnson smoked around this 2.5-mile triangular track with a lap at 168.215 mph to win his third pole of the season.
“With I saw last weekend and what I’ve seen today, the field should be very frightened,” said Mark Martin, referring to Johnson’s team.Martin put down a lap at 167.580 mph and said he told his crew chief, Tony Gibson, “If Jimmie can beat that he can have it.” Johnson then ran two tenths of a second faster. “He not only beat it, he humiliated me by two tenths. I was proud of what we laid down and he demolished it.”
Johnson laughed after qualifying when he talked about avoiding his own form of humiliation.
Never miss a local story.
His day began in New York City, where he appeared on the talk show hosted by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. After taking a ribbing last week at Indy about letting his hair grow out on vacation the previous week, he got a haircut on Thursday.
“I looked in the mirror and then said to my wife, ‘Look at this!’” Johnson said. “She said, ‘Why did you let them do that to you?’ I said, ‘All I did was sit there in the chair.’”
Fortunately for Johnson, his wife, Chandra, has a modeling background and knows people. When they got to New York Thursday evening, Chandra arranged for someone to come to their apartment in the city and earn a “save” on the coiffeur.
Actually, Johnson and his team had to snip away at a few loose ends before qualifying. The box where the shifter handle attached inside the driver’s compartment wasn’t working properly, leaving Johnson unable to get his car into first and second gears in Friday’s practice. His team fixed that before qualifying, though, and Johnson nailed the lap.
“I thought Mark’s lap was real good, and I wasn’t sure coming off Turn 3 if mine was real good,” he said.
It was plenty good enough. Now, after a day in which the No. 48 Chevrolet team worked exclusively on qualifying in practice, Johnson said there’s work to be done today on race trim in today’s practices.
Martin, who just missed ending a 261-race drought without a pole, feels the same way about his No. 8 Chevrolet.
“If we can find some things that will make the car stay stronger longer into the run, we can be a contender,” he said.
David Gilliland had easily his best qualifying effort of the season, running 167.187 mph to take the No. 3 starting slot. His previous best starting spot was 17th at Dover.
Jeff Gordon was fourth fastest in his No. 24 Chevrolet, with Matt Kenseth fifth. Kasey Kahne, who won the race here in June, starts seventh.
Points leader Kyle Busch, who wrecked and finished 43rd here in June, struggled on his qualifying lap running 165.499 mph. That puts him 27th in Sunday’s starting lineup.
POCONO 500 RESULTSUnofficial results from Friday’s qualifying for the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway with position, car number, driver, car make and speed (*-denotes team not in the top 35 points in the car owner standings and therefore not guaranteed a starting spot):
(48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 168.215.
(8) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 167.560.
(38) David Gilliland, Ford, 167.187.
(24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 167.106.
(17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 166.883.
(12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 166.784.
(9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 166.522.
(83) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 166.522.
(16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 166.516.
(2) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 166.445.
(43) Bobby Labonte, Dodge, 166.392.
(88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 166.349.
(42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 166.199.
(11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 166.153.
(99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 166.076.
(6) David Ragan, Ford, 165.932.
(1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 165.914.
*(70) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 165.868.
(38) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 165.828.
(20) Tony Stewart, Toyota, 165.773.
(29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 165.767.
(15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 165.606.
*(78) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 165.587.
(22) Dave Blaney, Toyota, 165.569.
*(10) Terry Labonte, Dodge, 165.520.
(77) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 165.514.
(18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 165.499.
(44) David Reutimann, Toyota, 165.466.
(19) Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 165.432.
(07) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 165.371.
*(84) AJ Allmendinger, Toyota, 165.201.
(41) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 165.168.
(5) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 165.159.
*(45) Chad McCumbee, Dodge, 165.029.
*(00) Michael McDowell, Toyota, 165.010.
(01) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 164.751.
*(21) Bill Elliott, Ford, 164.705.
(7) Robby Gordon, Dodge, 164.684.
(31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 164.660.
(66) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 164.546.
(26) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 164.525.
*(96) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 163.271.
(55) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 164.177 (owner points)
Failed to qualify: *(34) Chad Chaffin, Chevrolet, 161.316.