Points at a Premium: Five Races to Go Until Nov. 22 Miami Championship
South Florida's Juan Pablo Montoya remains in NASCAR Championship contention just 58 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson (photo courtesy: Sam Greenwood, Getty Images Sport)
Defending three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jimmie Johnson claimed his third pole of the season for Chase Race 5 at Lowe's Motor Speedway—and he’ll need it considering who’s nipping at his heels in the run for the Sprint Cup Championship that culminates at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22.
Phenomenal seats remain available for NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend.
Johnson holds just a 12-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin, who will start on the outside of the front row. South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya ranks third in the Championship standings, just 58 points back of Johnson, and qualified 18th for Chase Race 5 at Charlotte Saturday night (7 p.m. EST, ABC).
Johnson, who has won two of the last three races, won the pole for Saturday night’s race with the season’s fastest qualifying lap of the season at 192.376 mph.
"What a lap," said Johnson, seeking history at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22nd with an unprecedented fourth straight Sprint Cup Championship. "The speeds that we're running around here in the COT are pretty amazing. It was just a great lap.”
Martin—Johnson’s closest competitor in the run for the Sprint Cup Championship that culminates with the Ford 400 Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22—also was pleased with Thursday night qualifying.
“All four of my laps were spectacular,” Martin said post-qualifying. “I am really excited about my race car. It drove so well in practice, and that was obviously a really, really great lap."
"I'm just so thankful. I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys around to get a chance to drive [crew chief] Alan Gustafson's car and work with these guys. Man, they put some great stuff under me."
South Florida-resident Montoya is accomplishing some “great stuff” under the ownership umbrella of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and partial-owner Felix Sabates, who is liking the idea of his driver racing for the Sprint Cup title at the Colombian driver’s “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. The Cuban-born Sabates is feeling the groundswell of support for the first non-American-born driver ever to qualify for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Chase “playoffs.”
"I just always looked at Juan as one of the most incredible drivers out there," four-time NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon said. "I knew he was going to have an uphill battle [coming into NASCAR]. When you've been driving the open-wheel type cars that he had been for that long, it's a tough transition to get a feel for these cars, learn the tracks, transition in to different people, a new team. It is like starting your career over -- but he has the talent, so I knew it would only be a matter of time."
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