Johnson Sets Track Record At Martinsville

Johnson occupies a familiar position as the championship leader entering the season finale.. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)
Jimmie Johnson won the pole for the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — On a day when six drivers broke the track record, Jimmie Johnson was the fastest of the fast, winning the pole position for Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Johnson’s lap of 19.244 seconds (98.400 mph) in a Chevrolet around the .526-mile oval topped the record of 19.306 seconds (98.083 mph), set by Tony Stewart in 2005.

It was the third Martinsville Speedway pole for the seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and 30th career pole.

“That (the record) is icing on the cake. Track records are hard to come by,” said Johnson. “I knew right away (in practice) that we would have a shot at the pole; that I would have to do my part on the track.”

Marcos Ambrose nailed down the second starting spot in a Ford with a time of 19.251 seconds (98.364 mph) while Brian Vickers qualified third in a Toyota at 19.266 seconds (98.287 mph). Other drivers bettering the track record included Joey Logano, fourth, Kasey Kahne, fifth, and Jeff Gordon, sixth.

“It just feels great to get a front row spot,” Ambrose said of his second career top-10 start at Martinsville. “We’re less than a hundredth away from the top spot and felt like a woulda, shoulda, coulda out there. It was just a little extra time to get the pole, but we’ll take it.”

“It was good. Going into it (qualifying) I thought we were a change or two away from a shot at the pole, then after the run I thought we were still a change away from the pole,” said Vickers. “I thought it would be a fifth or seventh place. We showed up with a good car and adjusted and worked all day.”

Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (Ford), Matt Kenseth (Toyota), Carl Edwards (Ford) and Ryan Newman (Chevrolet) rounded out the top 10.