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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified third for Sunday’s 600-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Johnson turned a lap of 28.217 seconds at 191.374 mph on Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval, which will play host to the circuit’s longest race of the season on Sunday.
“Just real proud of where our equipment is going,” said Johnson, who has three poles at Charlotte, including two for the 600-miler. “I’ve always been able to race better than I qualify. Our qualifying effort this year has been improving week in and week out. I can’t express enough how important that is on pit road and late in the race. It just opens up so many options for you on two versus four tires. Good in’s and out’s to your pit stalls. I’m very proud of the effort today.”
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, captured his first career Sprint Cup pole by posting a lap of 27.988 seconds at 192.940 mph. The last time the No. 43 car was on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 was in 1966 when the race was known as the World 600 and the iconic Richard Petty was at the wheel.
Almirola’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Marcos Ambrose, will start on the outside of row one as he timed in at 28.184 seconds at 191.598 mph.
“I wish we were a little faster, but those RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) guys seem to have a little chunk of speed on the field all day long,” Johnson said. “Really, that No. 9 car (Ambrose) from what we saw in practice. I’m happy for those guys. It’s a smaller team that is working hard and I know it’s a big day for them. I wish it was us, but we will come back and learn a little more Saturday and go racing.”
Qualifying behind Johnson in fourth was Greg Biffle (28.234 seconds at 191.259 mph), while Clint Bowyer (28.243 seconds at 191.198 mph) rounded out the top five.
Forty-seven drivers attempted to qualify for the 600-miler at Charlotte. Those not making the cut in the 43-car field were Mike Bliss, David Reutimann, J.J. Yeley and Scott Riggs.
As far as manufacturers went, Ford took the top spot via Almirola’s pole run. Chevrolet was next best at the hands of Johnson, while Toyota was the third-fastest make thanks to Bowyer. Eleventh-quick A.J. Allmendinger (28.372 seconds at 190.328 mph) carried the flag for Dodge.
The 600-mile Sprint Cup race gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with a pre-race show at 5:30 p.m.