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Qualifying rainout puts Johnson on Pocono pole

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Published On: Jun 07 2013 04:30:41 PM CDT
Racing generic, winners flag

Caren Firouz/Reuters

LONG POND, Pa. -

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

With practice and time trials at Pocono Raceway rained out on Friday, Jimmie Johnson will start on the pole for Sunday's Party in the Poconos 400.

Johnson, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader, will bring the field to the green flag with second-place Carl Edwards beside him on the front row. With the starting order set by the rule book, the top cars in owner points will be at the front of the field at the outset.

Only 43 cars are entered for Sunday's race, so no cars are eliminated from competition by the rainout.

Clint Bowyer will start third beside fourth-place Matt Kenseth, followed by Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and reigning Spring Cup champion Brad Keselowski. Twenty of the last 30 Pocono winners have started from positions one through six, with eight of those starting on the pole.

"There are a lot of good benefits from starting on the pole, from track position to pit road picks," Johnson said. "We'll take it. The great season that we've had so far and the quick start, it's nice to have that.

"It's one of the benefits (as the point leader) when things rain out. So we certainly earned this first starting spot, and we'll try to take advantage of it on Sunday."

Four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin, who missed four races with a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra, will start 17th, the No. 11 Toyota's position in owner points. Hamlin himself is 26th in the drivers' standings, hoping to regain the top 20 and consequent eligibility for a wild card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With Saturday's forecast also in question, and practice time in danger of being curtailed, teams may have to rely on computer simulations to determine the setups with which they'll start the race.