Jimmie Johnson will be in the front position in the first Chase race at Chicagoland… (Geoff Burke / Getty Images )
JOLIET, Ill. — Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has a leg up on the field in his bid for a sixth title.
Johnson claimed the pole for Sunday's Chase for the Sprint Cup race, the first of 10 in the Chase series. He tops a 43-car field for the GEICO 400, topping with his 182.865-mph qualifying lap at Chicagoland Speedway.
"I'm very happy that we got a pole qualifying. We laid down a good one today," said Johnson, who never has won at Chicagoland. "We've been close, [but] some things have worked against us."
Aric Almirola, who's not among the 12 Cup qualifying drivers, was second with a 182.636 effort. Matt Kenseth, eighth among qualifiers, was third at 182.334.
Denny Hamlin, who tops the points list, was eighth in qualifying, coming in at 181.928 mph.
The pole position is Johnson's 27th in 290 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, 10th in a Chase race and second in 11 races at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson owns the all-time Chicagoland qualifying time of 188.147 mph set in 2005.
Stenhouse seizes lead
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., not only scored a convincing victory in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race, he also claimed the overall series lead.
Stenhouse won the 12th annual Dollar General 300 by 2.4 seconds over runner-up Kyle Busch for his fifth victory of the season.
In his last Chicagoland appearance in July, Stenhouse faded after leading much of the way. On Saturday, he overcame early mishaps — including a stall during a pit stop — and surged down the stretch to catch and pass Busch with 20 laps to go.
"I felt like we left one on the table here, leading the most laps and then finishing second," the 24-year-old driver said after an infield celebration.
"We were very fortunate that we overcame the mistakes we had," he added. "The last four races I think we've finished second, first, second and first. I think we have good momentum, but in this business and this sport anything can happen."
Elliott Sadler, who came into the race atop the Nationwide leaderboard, was eighth. Joey Logano, who captured the pole in qualifying and led early laps, slipped to ninth.
Stenhouse, who scored his first Chicagoland victory in five tries and seventh of his career, opened a nine-point lead over Sadler for the series lead. The triumph was also the first for Roush Fenway Racing at Chicagoland in any of NASCAR's three national series.