Jimmie Johnson captured the pole for Sunday's Ford 400 Nextel Cup race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final event of 10 races which make up the Chase for the Nextel Cup. The pole win puts him in perfect position for a record-setting fifth straight win and second consecutive Nextel Cup championship.
If Johnson wins a fifth consecutive race he would not only clinch the title, but be the first driver in the modern era (1972 and later) to win five in a row. Seven drivers in the modern era have won four straight (Cale Yarborough - 1976, Darrell Waltrip - 1981, Dale Earnhardt - 1987, Harry Gant - 1991, Bill Elliott - 1992, Mark Martin - 1993 and Jeff Gordon - 1998). The all-time record was set in 1967 by Richard Petty with an amazing 10 consecutive wins.
The No.48 Lowe's Chevrolet driver grabbed the top spot with a best lap of 30.545 seconds (176.788 m.p.h.). The pole victory was Johnson's fourth of the season and 13th of his Cup career.
"I felt like we had a good car in practice today," said Johnson. "Ryan (Newman) put up a solid number and I wasn't sure we could get close to that. I felt like I had a good lap and luckily it was good on the clock too."
Starting alongside Johnson on Sunday will be Ryan Newman who posted a time of 30.583 seconds.
Four of the eight Nextel Cup races at
Kasey Kahne (30.621), who was fastest in the final practice and Matt Kenseth (30.669) will make up row two.
The remainder of the "Chase" field will start in the following order: Kurt Busch (fifth), Kevin Harvick (eighth), Jeff Burton (ninth), Carl Edwards (10th), Gordon (11th), Tony Stewart (14th), Martin Truex Jr. (15th), Kyle Busch (18th), Clint Bowyer (19th) and Denny Hamlin (32nd).
Although the "Chase for the Nextel Cup" winner is still in doubt entering this week's event in
When Gordon won the Bank of America 500 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, he held a 68-point led over Johnson. It was his second consecutive win and he looked like a pretty sure bet to win his fifth series title. Gordon had just won in "Jimmie's house" and had just posted his fourth top-five in five "Chase" races.
But then Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus went on a roll that was even better than the one that won them the 2006 championship. In that year they put together a string of five straight top-two finishes (four seconds and one win). This time around he began his charge with a win at
Now Johnson heads to Sunday's final event with a commanding 86-point lead and his competition already thinking that it is all over.
"Those guys are on an unbelievable roll...and we're just coming up short at a crucial time," said Gordon after the race in
Even if Gordon wins the race and leads the most laps, Johnson only needs to finish 18th or better to capture the crown.
"I'm just trying to take it one step at a time and one lap at a time," said Johnson.
The race is scheduled to begin on Sunday at