Jimmie Johnson nabbed the pole award for Phoenix International Raceway with a track record. The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion turned a lap of 139.222 mph, breaking the mark of 138.766 set by Kyle Busch last year.
After Friday’s qualifying session, Johnson spoke with reporters, saying, “Track records are awesome. I don’t qualify on pole all that often, so I take pride in them, especially track records.”
ESPN reports that Johnson added, “Very cool to do, and clearly a great time in the season and a great time in the Chase.” Johnson took over the points lead from Matt Kenseth and leads by seven points going in to Sunday’s race.
Kenseth acknowledged on Friday that he has a lot of work to do to make his car better and try to catch Johnson on Sunday. He explained, “This track in the spring was extremely hard to pass at, probably one of the toughest tracks that we go to and I don’t know if it will be any better or not this time.”
Going into Sunday’s race, Jimmie Johnson admitted to Sporting News that he’s a bit nervous. The Hendrick driver was in the same position last year, with Brad Keselowski trailing him when he blew a tire and crashed at Phoenix. Johnson assured it’s not losing that scares him because, “The losing, there were a lot of lessons in it.”
However, he explained, “I am probably a sport’s psychologist’s worst nightmare. Because I look at the negatives and try to learn from them and try to prepare myself based on those things.”
In contrast, Kenseth, in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing after spending 13 years with Roush Fenway, tends to go out and race instead of worrying about what might happen. He explained, “I don’t sit and worry about the next race track coming up because worrying is just a waste of energy, or waste of time.”
Jimmie Johnson is coming off a dominating win at Texas Motor Speedway last week, which could give him a little extra momentum for Sunday’s race. Who do you want to win?