LONG POND, Pa. – Jimmie Johnson needed multiple attempts to make it through pre-qualifying inspection, then set a track record with a lap of 180.654 mph Friday at Pocono Raceway to win the pole for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Kyle Busch implied the five-time Cup champion and crew were up to no good.
Johnson went 29th instead of his scheduled 24th spot, and the later start under the clouds as the track got faster might have given him an advantage over the cars that went out under the sun. Johnson had inspection issues last month at New Hampshire and used another late start to qualify third until his time was scrapped after the No. 48 failed inspection.
Are Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus working around the rules? Or can they simply not get the car in tune in time for inspection?
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“A lot of these other teams figure out how to play by the rules,” Busch said. “It seems like there’s one that’s sometimes late.”
Busch also said, “Every time they’re late, they’re always fast. Maybe we need to be late.”
Johnson, who won from the pole at Pocono in June, brushed off those comments.
“I wish there was some master plan behind it all,” he said. “They’re welcome to try it. They’re welcome to experience the stress that goes with it.”
Busch, who had a lap of 180.639, will start second. Carl Edwards will start third and Ryan Newman in fourth.
Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., was seventh among qualifiers and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was 18th.