Johnson on Cup pole at Phoenix

Johnson on Cup pole at Phoenix

Cup Series

Johnson on Cup pole at Phoenix

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NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson will start the next-to-last round of the season in front after topping Phoenix qualifying.

The Hendrick Chevrolet driver lapped the one-mile circuit in 25.848 seconds to best Denny Hamlin in the final moments of the session.

Johnson was one of the last drivers to run but, after topping practice, continued the strong form that earned him victory and the championship lead in Texas last weekend to claim pole.

The championship leader’s joy was in contrast to the struggles of chief title rival Matt Kenseth, who ended the session down in 14th and almost three-tenths off the pace.

Kenseth, who trails Johnson by seven points with two rounds remaining (including Sunday’s race), was the fourth driver to run but only managed to go second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. before the pair tumbled out of the top 10 altogether. The latter will line up 11th, with 2012 champion Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard between them.

Kevin Harvick, who lies third in the points, was ninth quickest. He briefly held provisional pole, before Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Hamlin each took a turn at the top of the times.

Hamlin’s benchmark held until Johnson came on, but when he did he slotted straight into fourth on the leaderboard and then found another tenth on his second run to edge out Hamlin and claim a new qualifying track record.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                     Time     Gap 1.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet           25.848s 2.  Denny Hamlin        Joe Gibbs Toyota             25.895s  +0.047s 3.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford                  25.910s  +0.062s 4.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota             25.927s  +0.079s 5.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet           25.969s  +0.121s 6.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota               25.975s  +0.127s 7.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet           25.989s  +0.141s 8.  Kurt Busch          Furniture Row Chevrolet      26.003s  +0.155s 9.  Kevin Harvick       Childress Chevrolet          26.031s  +0.183s10.  Martin Truex Jr     Waltrip Toyota               26.074s  +0.226s11.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet           26.077s  +0.229s12.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Ford                  26.093s  +0.245s13.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet          26.137s  +0.289s14.  Matt Kenseth        Joe Gibbs Toyota             26.143s  +0.295s15.  Jeff Burton         Childress Chevrolet          26.153s  +0.305s16.  Mark Martin         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       26.199s  +0.351s17.  Ryan Newman         Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       26.232s  +0.384s18.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford            26.240s  +0.392s19.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                   26.283s  +0.435s20.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                   26.288s  +0.440s21.  Elliott Sadler      Waltrip Toyota               26.337s  +0.489s22.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford            26.339s  +0.491s23.  Juan Pablo Montoya  Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  26.428s  +0.580s24.  Reed Sorenson       Levine Ford                  26.452s  +0.604s25.  Justin Allgaier     Phoenix Chevrolet            26.469s  +0.621s26.  Bobby Labonte       JTG Daugherty Toyota         26.478s  +0.630s27.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford            26.481s  +0.633s28.  Josh Wise           Front Row Ford               26.511s  +0.663s29.  Cole Whitt          Swan Toyota                  26.526s  +0.678s30.  Casey Mears         Germain Ford                 26.553s  +0.705s31.  Travis Kvapil       BK Toyota                    26.588s  +0.740s32.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet       26.592s  +0.744s33.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford               26.603s  +0.755s34.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford               26.612s  +0.764s35.  JJ Yeley            Baldwin Chevrolet            26.645s  +0.797s36.  Jamie McMurray      Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet  26.694s  +0.846s37.  David Reutimann     BK Toyota                    26.737s  +0.889s38.  Timmy Hill          FAS Lane Ford                26.760s  +0.912s39.  Michael McDowell    Parsons Ford                 26.792s  +0.944s40.  Landon Cassill      Circle Sport Chevrolet       26.882s  +1.034s41.  Tony Raines         Hillman Chevrolet            27.261s  +1.413s42.  Dave Blaney         Baldwin Chevrolet            27.360s  +1.512s43.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota                 27.549s  +1.701s

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