By Joe Dunn
Jimmie Johnson surprised the fans and other drivers alike when he turned a fast lap of 15.540 for 123.475 mph to claim the pole for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ryan Newman had set the mark when he went out 10th and held the provisional pole until being set back by his teammate Tony Stewart. Stewart place atop the board was short lived as Joey Logano was next out (17th) and bested Stewart’s time by .023 seconds. It appeared Logano would start up front until Carl Edwards went out 33rd and sent Logano back beating his time by .022, but Carl would have to settle for the front row besides Johnson who turned a lap more than a half second faster.
Jeff Gordon, who earlier in the day told the media that he seemed to have lost his ‘edge’ at Bristol when the track was resurfaced a few years ago, went out fifth and slid the car out of turn four onto the front stretch before taking the green flag. NASCAR officials allowed Gordon’s crew to put scuff tires on since the tires were flat spotted and he had not taken the green. Gordon went on the 5 minute clock and would go out later, turning a lap of 15.803 seconds, good for a disappointing 26th place start.
David Reutimann, who had missed the practice sessions and was expected to miss qualifying due to stomach issues, surprised folks by climbing in the car and qualifying fifth. Jeff Green, who has been absent from the Cup series for a while, qualified the 26 car 31st putting the car in the field. Kevin Conway, who was recently released from the #34 car was behind the wheel of the Robby Gordon #7 car and made the race by way of owner points, starting 40th. Casey Mears, driving the #13 Geico Toyota for Germain Racing filled the final spot starting 43rd.
Missing Saturday Night’s race, the 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Bristol Motor Speedway were, Dave Blaney (36), Joe Nemechek (87), Kevin Lepage (4), J.J. Yeley (46), Brian Keselowski (92) and Mike Bliss (32).