NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
       === Johnson wins Martinsville pole, Keselowski qualifies 32nd ===
 
 Martinsville,  VA (Sports Network) - Jimmie Johnson will have a huge advantage
 over  points leader  Brad Keselowski in Sunday's Chase for the Sprint Cup race
 at  Martinsville Speedway  after Johnson won the pole and Keselowski qualified
 32nd.
 
 Johnson,  who is currently seven points behind Keselowski, earned the pole for
 the  Tums  Fast Relief  500 at  Martinsville with  a lap  at 97.598 mph during
 Friday's  qualifying. The  five-time Sprint  Cup Series  champion claimed  his
 third pole of the season and the 28th of his career. It will be the third time
 he starts first at this 0.526-mile racetrack.
 
 Johnson  is a six-time race winner at Martinsville but has not been to victory
 lane here since March 2009. He has yet to win a race in this year's Chase.
 
 "When  the playoffs  hit, it  doesn't matter  what sport  it is,  crazy things
 happen,"  Johnson said. "And with that being said, yeah, we come here thinking
 that we should be able to get some points on the 2 (Keselowski), but you never
 know.  It's  going to be a  long race. We've helped ourselves out dramatically
 today  by qualifying on the pole. We've got the safest pit stall, and starting
 with track position is very important."
 
 Keselowski,  who has five wins this year, including two in the postseason, had
 his worst qualifying finish of the season. His lap was clocked at 96.015 mph.
 
 "I  certainly would like  to qualify better, and that's at the forefront of my
 mind,  but I'd  much rather race towards the front rather than qualify towards
 the  front  if I had to  pick between the  two," Keselowski said. "I feel like
 we'll be capable of pulling that off once the race gets started."
 
 Nineteen  of 127 Cup  races at Martinsville have been won from the pole, while
 only one time has a driver won here after starting from a position outside the
 top-30. Kurt Busch won the 2002 fall race at this track from the 36th starting
 spot.
 
 Brian  Vickers, driving  the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, grabbed
 the  outside pole with a lap at 97.533 mph. Earlier in the day, Vickers topped
 the  charts in practice.  MWR also announced that he will drive the No. 55 car
 in nine Sprint Cup races next season.
 
 Kyle  Busch qualified third, while Jeff Burton took the fourth spot. Busch and
 Burton  are not in  this year's Chase field. Denny Hamlin was fifth. Hamlin is
 presently  20  points out of the  lead. He is  also a four-time race winner at
 Martinsville.
 
 Matt  Kenseth, Tony  Stewart,  who won  at Martinsville  one  year ago,  Clint
 Bowyer,  Paul  Menard and Aric Almirola  completed the top-10. Kenseth has won
 two of the last three Chase races, including a victory in last weekend's event
 at Kansas.
 
 Dale  Earnhardt Jr.  will start  20th  in his  first race  back since  missing
 Charlotte  and Kansas  due to  a  concussion. Earnhardt  Jr. received  medical
 clearance  earlier this  week  after passing  a  series of  neuropsychological
 evaluations,  including  a test  session at  the half-mile Gresham Motorsports
 Park in Jefferson, Ga. He was second quickest in practice at Martinsville.
 
 Mike  Bliss and  J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for Sunday's 500-lap race, which
 is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (ET).
 
 10/26 18:19:25 ET

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