Avondale, Ariz. Jimmie Johnson moved a step closer to a third consecutive Sprint Cup title by winning the pole Friday at Phoenix International Speedway.
Johnson, the defending race winner, turned a lap of 134.725 mph in his Chevrolet to earn the top starting spot Sunday. If he gains 57 more points than Carl Edwards, Johnson would only need to start the season finale to become the first driver since Cale Yarborough (1976-78) to win three straight titles.
"That's really the bottom line is we need to be 162 up leaving here, then all I have to do is go down there and start," Johnson said. "Am I planning on that being the case? No. Carl's car has been so strong. My goal is to outrun him. I don't want this margin to shrink anymore."
Edwards, who had the fastest car in Friday's final practice session, qualified 15th because he said the engine in his Ford bogged down on the backstretch during his lap. Winner of the last two races, Edwards has chopped away at Johnson's lead and now trails him by just 106 points with two events to go.
Jamie McMurray qualified second in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford and was followed by Kurt Busch in a Dodge for Penske Racing and David Reutimann in a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth and was followed by Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Paul Menard and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10.