FORT WORTH, Texas — Jimmie Johnson finished his qualifying run at Texas with the fastest lap on the day, then stayed in his car while waiting to see if anybody would knock him off the pole.
It turned out the same way it did a week earlier in Martinsville.
When the Sprint Cup points leader finally climbed out of the cockpit of his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet more than 30 minutes later Friday, after Brad Keselowski and the rest of the field failed to top his lap of 191.076 mph, he was the polesitter for the second week in a row.
“I was ready to get out, and my engine tuner stuck his head in and said, ‘Hey, man, you’re going to be sitting here a long time this week,'” Johnson said. “Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m not superstitious, but I’ll sit here. … It doesn’t mean anything, but at this point in the season, you have to pull out all of the stops.”
Johnson’s 29th career pole is his first at Texas, where he was the runner-up in April.
With his win from the pole at Martinsville, Johnson regained the series points lead, by two over Keselowski.
Johnson was the 20th car on the track for Texas qualifying.
“It was a while-knuckle lap. I can say I didn’t leave anything on the table with that one,” Johnson said. “A couple of opportunities to kind of lose control there, but staying on the throttle definitely kept the car pointed in the right direction and blasted off a great lap.”
Keselowski was the 44th of 46 drivers who did qualifying runs. His lap of 189.534 mph was good for the eighth spot. He also qualified eighth his last two races at the 1½-mile high-banked track, where he has never had a top-10 finish.
It was the best qualifying effort for Keselowski since the 12-driver championship chase started two months ago. He’s trying to win the first Sprint Cup championship for Roger Penske.
“We’re in strong position to control our own destiny as far as the Chase is concerned and having a shot at winning it,” Keselowski said. “That’s really about all you can ask. Certainly you’d like to have a big lead, but that’s not very realistic when you’re racing the best and competing against the best.”
Johnson has finished in the top 10 in 13 of his 18 starts at Texas Motor Speedway, where all around the facility are election-style signs touting the top two challengers for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with three races left.
In April at Texas, Johnson was the runner-up to Greg Biffle, who will start his No. 16 Ford on the front row Sunday after qualifying second at 190.382 mph.
Kyle Busch qualified third, just ahead of Clint Bowyer, who is third in the Sprint Cup standings behind Johnson and Keselowski.
Kasey Kahne, who is fourth in season points, qualified 13th.
And Johnson was sitting much of the time watching everybody else during qualifying.
“I was just watching everybody go by and catch a glimpse of the Jumbotron over there and see where they pop up on the board,” he said. “I’ve watched more interviews where a guy climbs out of a race car to a microphone, and just at that point in time, they fall to second. I didn’t want it to happen. I knew I put down a good lap.”