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Johnson begins Chase with Chicagoland pole

3:59 PM, Sep 15, 2012   |    comments
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Joliet, IL (Sports Network) - Championship contender Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole for the first in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup after posting the fastest lap in Saturday's qualifying at Chicagoland Speedway.

Johnson, who was the 23rd driver to qualify in the 47-car field for the Geico 400, turned a lap at 182.865 mph for his second pole of the season and the 27th of his Sprint Cup Series career. The five-time series champion begins this year's Chase in the second seed, just three points behind Denny Hamlin.

"It's a great start for the weekend," Johnson said. "We did everything right today, which I'm exited about. I have to say more than anything I'm excited, because (in Friday's practice), we were fair and needed a little bit more. The adjustments we made to our race car really helped today. We can apply that to our race setup, and I think we'll be just right."

Johnson is the only driver who has qualified for the Chase each year since the playoff system in NASCAR's premier series began in 2004. He also holds the record for most postseason wins with 20. Johnson has yet to win a Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland.

"We've been saying all along we're ready for this Chase to start, so we need to go out there and prove it, and today was a start in the right direction," he added.

Aric Almirola, who is not in the Chase field, will share the front row with Johnson after his qualifying lap at 182.636 mph.

Matt Kenseth qualified third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards.

Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano completed the top-10.

Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Kahne and Bowyer are other drivers in the Chase field.

The other title contenders and their starting positions include: Brad Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr. (18th), Jeff Gordon (19th), Greg Biffle (22nd), Tony Stewart (29th) and Kevin Harvick (35th).

Stewart won last year's Chase-opener at Chicagoland and went on to score four more victories in the playoffs to capture his third series championship.

Danica Patrick will start 41st.

Scott Riggs, Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley and Jason Leffler failed to qualify for Sunday's 400-mile race at Chicagoland, which is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (ET).

The Sports Network

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