Jimmie Johnson in ideal position to gain 5th championship with 5th place starting position while Denny Hamlin flounders in qualifying.
God must be a #48 fan! NASCAR desperately needed a contested chase, and how they have gotten one the last few weeks with Denny Hamlin even surpassing Jimmie Johnson with a bold win in Texas, but now it’s time to wrap things up. Down by fifteen points, Jimmie Johnson qualifies 6th while Denny Hamlin starts a disgraceful 37th fending off the start and park rides while Kevin Harvick fares slightly better in 28th. While pit strategy and careful manipulation of track position will play a huge roll in the outcome, nothing beats getting off to a good start and letting the competition try to catch up. Still, this puts Denny Hamlin in a very tough spot. Were the race to finish as they line up to start the Ford 400, Denny Hamlin would lose to Johnson by 83 points.
Kasey Kahne starts on the poll, a great accomplishment for him and the Red Bull team given their short tenure working together. This will be a team to keep an eye on next year. Hot off his win last week, Carl Edwards starts second. Meanwhile, take a look at Bill Elliott in his part time ride for the “legendary” Wood Brothers. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville starts 4th next to Jaime McMurray. Meanwhile, the ill-fated Richard Petty operation can feel proud that A.J. Allemendinger puts the #43 car in the fifth starting slot.
It all comes down to the Ford 400 in Homestead. The competition is close. A Johnson win would surely throw the driver into Dale Earnhardt/Richard Petty status, the only drivers who have more championships than Johnson, but to win five in a row would be something far out of the reach of Petty and Earnhardt in their glory days when there was not as much parity in the sport as there is now.
The pressure is on Denny Hamlin, make no mistake about that.