Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/18/14

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 09: Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway on October 9, 2009 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

DOVER, DE. – Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe’s/Madagascar Chevrolet will start outside the front row for tomorrow’s running of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.  Johnson missed the pole by a mere five one thousandths of a second but will start second as he makes his run for a seventh trophy at the “Monster Mile”.  Fellow Team Chevy driver Ryan Newman, No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet tied his best qualifying effort of the season and will start third. 

A total of 17 Chevrolet’s will compete in Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway.  When the 43-car field was set, four Team Chevy drivers scored top-10 starting positions for the 400-lap/400 mile race on the 1.0-mile oval.  Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet – 6th and Kurt Busch, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet – 9th join Johnson and Newman in the top 10.

Other Chevrolet’s starting in the top-20 include: Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet – 13th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet – 14th; Jeff Burton, No. 31 BB&T Chevrolet – 15th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Amp Energy/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet – 17th and Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet – 20th.

Mark Martin (Toyota) won the pole. The FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m., ET with coverage on FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90.



TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT: “I’m just really happy with the speed we’ve had in the race car. We felt like in race trim, we had what we needed to, but lacked a little bit yesterday in our mock runs. Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made some great adjustments on the car. My lap was pretty strong. I knew off the corner, off (Turns) 2 and 4 that I just couldn’t get the power down due to being loose. And I left a little on the table. I felt like it was more like a tenth and a half that I left out there and Mark (Martin) found five thousandths (laughs). So, it was just a little bit. But I’m happy for this Lowe’s Chevrolet. We have a very cool paint scheme on the car this weekend and I’m excited to have Madagascar 3 on there. Hopefully the kids tune-in. I know my daughter will be watching with excitement. We’ll just go racing. Mark (Martin) is one heck of a wheel man and he continues to show it. So, believe me, I hate getting beat. But I’ll deal with it to Mark Martin.”

CAN YOU IMAGINE CUTTING THE LAP TIMES THAT MARK MARTIN IS DOING AT HIS AGE? “I hope that I can. And I’ve been able to pick his brain and understand him on many levels. One, his passion for the sport; he’s tried to retire a few times, but just can’t do it. That fire still burns in him. The other part that’s really cool is he’s created this opportunity. He’s wanted to run a limited schedule. He’s been able to do it a couple of times and he’s found a great situation there at MWR. And then mentally and physically, the work that he puts in and has put in over the years keeps him in this position. There are guys a decade younger than he is with back issues and knee issues at a much younger age. Mark has worked through some of those issues himself but has worked hard on his physical fitness. If you are strong physically, it’s also good for the mind. And he’s covered those bases and continues to show it.”

ON LAST YEAR’S RACE AND HOW YOU’D LIKE TO FINISH BETTER THIS TIME: “We had a great race car. We led a lot of laps. It’s always tough being the guy who leads the most laps. It just seems that car rarely pulls into victory lane. I had a bad restart or two at the end, which the No. 22 (then Kurt Busch) had a great restart on both of those and got on by me. I’m telling myself this: Even if I’m in control of an even all day long, you’ve got to be prepared for little sprint runs at the end and solid restarts.”

HOW GOOD IS YOUR CAR IN RACE TRIM? TALK ABOUT YOUR HENDRICK TEAMMATES, AND COULD THIS BE ANOTHER HENDRICK WIN THIS WEEKEND AMONGST ANY OF YOU? “I feel like our pace is good. I wasn’t real happy with the balance of the car but the speed is in it. It’s just real uncomfortable to drive. The different tire combination that we have here, I guess it’s elevated the speed some, but it’s also changed the balance of the car for us and it’s made the car much looser. So, we’re just trying to understand how much we need to tighten the car up and how to go about tightening it up and then going into a race, what’s the track going to do there? (laughs) With the rain and all that’s been going on, there’s going to be some guessing and we need to make sure we have adjustability built into the car so we can tighten it up if we need to or free it up through spring rubbers; there is always track bar and wedge, but having some other big components in the car where we can shift the balance so that we’re not pinned into something come race time.

“In our team debrief, Jeff (Gordon) was very happy. Kasey (Kahne) was happy. Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was happy at points. I think as the track was thoroughly rubbered-in, the grip was down. All four of our cars were fighting a similar issue at that point. I think everybody feels pretty good about it. It was nice to see Jeff so optimistic about his car. He, as we all know, has been through a tough stretch here. We got Kasey in victory lane last week, which was awesome. Junior’s been knocking on the door and we’ve got to get that No. 24 (Gordon) car higher up in points. We don’t want to let the boss down. We want to get all four in the Chase.”

YOUR LAST POLE WAS HERE IN SEPTEMBER 2010. ARE YOU SURPRISED IT’S BEEN THAT LONG AGO? “Kind of; qualifying has never been my strong suit. I’ve been second a lot (laughs); and I’m tired of being second in qualifying. But it is what it is. I go out there on the track and I’ve just got to take care of it and do a little better job there. But I’ve had a lot of second-place qualifying efforts.”


ON MARK MARTIN WINNING THE POLE: “He’s an awesome qualifier. Look at his stats. He keeps putting another notch in the belt; two to my one, it seems like in the last couple of years. So I’ve been trying to chase him down. He’s got a little bit of age on me, but he’s always been a great qualifier, there’s no doubt about that. So I don’t think that age or whatever else has anything to do with the abilities of driving a race car.”

ON THE BARBEQUE THAT HE’S DOING NEXT WEEK: “All I know is (Tony) Stewart and I are getting an opportunity, I think it’s a sweepstakes or something that they had, to go out and enjoy a little bit of barbeque and hang out with the fans and that’s cool. It’s our first Aspen Dental commitment, so I look forward to working with them. I know they’ve signed on to be a great sponsor at Stewart-Haas and that’s going to keep us a little busier than usual at Pocono.”

WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE TIRES WILL DO DURING THE RACE ON SUNDAY? ALSO, DO YOU SEE YOURSELF RACING AT THE AGE OF 50 LIKE MARK MARTIN? “I think it all depends, well I know it all depends on what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. If it’s going to be sunny I think we’re going to have a lot of rubber built-up on the race track, which in the end, we still have to fight through it. There’s still going to be a winner. I don’t like the fact that the track is going to build rubber if it does; but if it does, sometimes you’re just going to have to drive around it. But if it’s cloudy, I don’t think we’ll get that rubber build-up as we’ve seen in the past. The bottom line is we’ll see on that with respect to the tires.

“And racing at the age of 50, not full-time or not even as much as he does. That’s not my personal goal.”


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