Kansas City, Kan. Jimmie Johnson always has started great at Kansas Speedway.
Now he needs to finish just as strong.
Johnson won the pole for the LifeLock 400 with a time of 30.846 on Friday - his second pole in six races at Kansas. It is also the third time in the last four races that Johnson will start from the pole position.
"I can't remember the races and what has gone on, but I have a great feeling about this track when I see it on the schedule," Johnson said. "I remember running well."
Johnson is four points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for the lead in the Chase for the Nextel Cup and simply finishing the race is important because this is just the third of 10 races in NASCAR's playoff.
Johnson, whose best finish at Kansas is sixth in 2005, didn't think his qualifying time would be tops among the 47 drivers vying for 43 spots.
"I was really unhappy with my lap. To be honest, I thought we were in big trouble," Johnson said. "One, I didn't think we had run that fast. Then when I hear the time, I didn't think that it would stay up there. ... The car's handling didn't keep me from committing to the throttle, which was helpful. It just wouldn't run like I wanted to, and it was so tight. The front tires were chattering, and I thought I was going to knock the wall down off both (turns) two and four and still ended up putting down a good lap."
Gordon will start fourth Sunday, but his slim lead will be contested by six other drivers in the Chase for the Cup starting in the top 10. Gordon also will look to improve on his 39th-place finish in last year's race, his worst finish at Kansas.
"It's hard to consider yourself the points leader when there are so few points that separate you and fourth, fifth or sixth," said Gordon, who leads fourth-place Kyle Busch by just 10 points. "It is so tight right now, other than maybe the two or three guys that have had trouble. It is like we started at New Hampshire; it is pretty much even. ... I like all the tracks on the schedule, and this is certainly one that I really like and we run well at. I am excited about being here."
Tony Stewart, last year's winner at Kansas Speedway, will have to work his way up from 19th position.
"We were better than what we showed (in practice). We're all right. I think we'll be better tomorrow," Stewart said. "I think we got a direction in practice of what we need to do and how we're going to get there.
"Hey, the money's paid on Sunday."
Emporia native Clint Bowyer will have another top-10 start at Kansas, though his starting spot in 10th isn't as good as his fourth-place start last year.
Fellow Midwesterner Carl Edwards, a Columbia, Mo., native, will start in the middle of the pack with a 27th-place qualifying time.
"It was a little bit loose," Edwards said. "We weren't really sure what it was going to do. It wasn't that great in qualifying trim in practice, but I'm pretty happy with the lap. For as loose as it was, I don't think if I had it to do over again 10 times : I don't think I could've gone any faster."
Ryan Newman, who had qualified second, did not pass post-qualifying inspections because his roof was too low. He will start from the back of the field.