Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick, Chicagoland 2012Jimmie Johnson will start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase from pole position after leading Saturday’s qualifying for the play-off opener at Chicagoland.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver claimed his second pole of the season and his 11th for a Chase event. Johnson beat the previous benchmark set earlier in the session by Richard Petty’s Aric Almirola by four hundredths of a second.

Johnson’s run came halfway through qualifying and stood unbeaten after another 24 cars completed their runs.

Although Johnson had a previous pole at Chicagoland, he had never started the Chase opener from the top spot. On Sunday he kicks off his quest for a sixth Cup title from the best possible position.

“It’s a great start obviously for the weekend, track position is so important and pit road is as everyone knows,” said Johnson. “We did everything good today, which I’m excited about.

“We’ve been saying all along that we’re ready for this Chase to start and to go out and prove it today was a step in the right direction.”

Almirola was the best of four non Chasers who qualified among the top 10. Roush Fenway’s Matt Kenseth and Hendrick’s Dale Earnhardt Jr will start from the second row of the grid, ahead of their respective team-mates Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne – the latter among the most consistent in Friday’s final practice.

Chase leader Denny Hamlin was eighth fastest in qualifying and was the only play-off contender who ranked among the top five in both of Friday’s practice sessions, which were each led by Michael Waltrip’s Martin Truex Jr and Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Kyle Busch.

Reigning champion Tony Stewart was only 29th fastest but fellow Chaser Kevin Harvick was the slowest of the title contenders, finishing the session in 35th.

Trevor Bayne was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 14th while Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, JJ Yeley and Jason Leffler failed to make the field.

Click here for AUTOSPORT’s analysis of the 12 Chase contenders’ title prospects

Source: http://www.iracing.com/inracingnews/nascar-news/nascar/johnson-starts-chase-with-pole

Danny Kladis Hans Klenk Peter de Klerk Christian Klien