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May 12th, 2012
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Greg Biffle beat Jimmie Johnson to pole position for Saturday’s 500-mile race at Darlington.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver just edged the Hendrick Motorsports racer with a lap of 27.281 seconds, at an average speed of 180.257 mph, to claim his second pole of 2012, having started from the top spot earlier this season at Bristol.
Biffle, a two-time Darlington winner, had been second fastest in the first practice session behind Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick, also running second best in final practice behind Penske’s AJ Allmendinger.
The former Truck and Nationwide Series champion joked after his run that his qualifying effort was almost hampered by a small balloon flying in front of him as he was set to start his first flying lap.
“It may sound stupid but that red balloon over there caught me more off-guard than anything,” said Biffle. “I gave up in Turn 4, saw this thing in the middle of the track and almost lost concentration.
“But that was a pretty on-edge lap. I felt like I left a lot on the table on Turns 1 and 2 but I guess I got through [Turns] 3 and 4 pretty good.”
Johnson beat Hendrick team-mate Kasey Kahne to second despite setting identical teams by virtue of his better ranking in the points standings. The five-time champion was the first of at least five cars to brush the wall in the opening practice, getting the traditional ‘Darlington stripe’.
A third Hendrick-built Chevy, Ryan Newman’s Stewart-Haas Impala, was fourth fastest ahead of the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr.
Roush’s Carl Edwards was seventh ahead of pre-race favourite Denny Hamlin, who ran very consistent laps during the second practice, showing strong race pace in his JGR Toyota Camry. Last year’s surprise winner Regan Smith and RCR’s Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10 in qualifying.
Scott Speed, making his third start of the season, was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 29th, while Danica Patrick will line up 38th for her second Cup race, her first at Darlington.
Scott Riggs, Michael McDowell, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss failed to make the field.