Johnson follows 30th with pole

Ninth try at Martinsville nets top spot

Auto racing

April 01, 2006|By ED HINTON

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jimmie Johnson came storming back yesterday from last week's stumble out of the Nextel Cup points lead. And he made it look breezy.

Johnson was clocked at 96.736 mph around flat, narrow, half-mile Martinsville Speedway to win the pole for tomorrow's DirecTV 500 in a Chevrolet.

But he said his team put no special effort into it, even after they finished 30th, 13 laps down, last week at Bristol, Tenn., in a tough return for crew chief Chad Knaus from a four-race suspension. Their troubles dropped Johnson, who has won two races this season, from first to third in points.

"We didn't change a thing for this week," Johnson said after beating Jamie McMurray's speed of 96.696 mph in a Ford. "In our opinion, we didn't really have a chance to race at Bristol. We'd had a great practice, and felt like we had a great car-and then we started the race with a flat tire."

After he pitted to replace the tire, "I made a mistake trying to get my lap back, and got into the outside wall."

That pancaked the right side of his car so badly that he struggled the rest of the race.

"Then we went to Lowe's Motor Speedway and tested with Goodyear for two days," said Johnson, who crashed there because of tire problems on the still-treacherous surface of the Charlotte track.

All in all, "we really haven't talked about Martinsville much," he said. "We haven't put any more pressure on ourselves than we typically would. And we came here and had a great practice, and a great qualifying run."

The pole was the ninth of Johnson's career, but his first at Martinsville in nine tries. It also was the first pole for his powerful Hendrick Motorsports team - which includes Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers - since Vickers won the pole at New Hampshire last July.

Ed Hinton writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

Tomorrow's lineup

At Martinsville, Va. Lap length: 0.526 miles (Car number in parentheses)

1. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 96.736. 2. (26) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 96.696. 3. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevy, 96.632. 4. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 96.563. 5. (9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 96.509. 6. (14) Sterling Marlin, Chevy, 96.484. 7. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 96.445. 8. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 96.288. 9. (2) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 96.117. 10. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 95.976. 11. (10) Scott Riggs, Dodge, 95.864. 12. (96) Tony Raines, Chevy, 95.830. 13. (43) Bobby Labonte, Dodge, 95.786. 14. (22) Dave Blaney, Dodge, 95.752. 15. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 95.670. 16. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 95.632. 17. (5) Kyle Busch, Chevy, 95.603. 18. (18) J.J. Yeley, Chevy, 95.530. 19. (21) Ken Schrader, Ford, 95.487. 20. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevy, 95.444. 21. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevy, 95.357. 22. (01) Joe Nemechek, Chevy, 95.275. 23. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 95.271. 24. (25) Brian Vickers, Chevy, 95.218. 25. (41) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 95.146. 26. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevy, 95.132. 27. (7) Robby Gordon, Chevy, 95.065. 28. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 95.017. 29. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevy, 94.855. 30. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 94.708. 31. (34) Chad Chaffin, Chevy, 94.543. 32. (42) Casey Mears, Dodge, 94.538. 33. (55) Michael Waltrip, Dodge, 94.505. 34. (66) Jeff Green, Chevy, 94.463. 35. (95) Stanton Barrett, Chevy, 94.458. 36. (4) Scott Wimmer, Chevy, 94.444. 37. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 94.214. 38. (40) David Stremme, Dodge, 94.200. 39. (51) Mike Garvey, Chevy, 94.106. 40. (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevy, 94.087. 41. (11) Denny Hamlin, Chevy, 93.915. 42. (07) Clint Bowyer, Chevy, Owner Points 43. (92) Chad Blount, Dodge, 94.017.

Failed to qualify

44. (74) Derrike Cope, Dodge, 94.013. 45. (61) Kevin Lepage, Ford, 93.854. 46. (78) Kenny Wallace, Chevy, 93.627. 47. (49) Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 93.525. 48. (89) Morgan Shepherd, Dodge, 93.460. 49. (00) Hermie Sadler, Chevy, 92.628.

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