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Biffle finds speed to take pole at Darlington

May 12, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- After a stellar qualifying run, Jimmie Johnson said there was some speed left in Darlington Raceway -- and Greg Biffle found it.

Biffle toured the 1.366-mile Lady in Black in 27.281 seconds (180.2557 mph) to win the pole for Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500, beating second-place starter Johnson and third-place Kasey Kahne by .105 seconds.

Bojangles' Southern 500

Lineup
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.J. Johnson179.56627.386
3.K. Kahne179.56627.386
4.R. Newman179.46127.402
5.Ky. Busch179.44827.404

Biffle, who posted back-to-back wins at Darlington in 2005 and 2006, snagged his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at the Lady in Black and the 11th of his career.

"This is what a race car driver looks forward to, showing up every weekend and having a really fast car to drive," said Biffle, the Sprint Cup Series leader. "They're making me look good so far.

"It was a pretty uneventful lap. The car just had a ton of grip -- it stuck to the race track really, really well. I felt like I was a little bit light down in Turns 1 and 2 -- I should have been a little bit quicker down there -- but I got a lot out of it in 3 and 4, so it was a great lap."

Johnson and Kahne ran identical speeds (179.566 mph), with Johnson winning the front-row starting spot from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate on an owner points tiebreaker. Ryan Newman (179.461 mph) qualified fourth, followed by Kyle Busch (179.448 mph).

Johnson said his car was comfortable -- perhaps too much so in Turns 3 and 4 of the qualifying lap.

"I knew I left a little time on the table down there, and Greg went out and found it," Johnson said.

Danica Patrick qualified 38th at 175.497 mph for her Cup debut at Darlington, picking up approximately .75 seconds from her fastest lap in practice. The Southern 500 will be Patrick's second Cup race and her first in a Cup car with an open motor.

But it's all part of the trial-by-fire approach to a 10-race schedule she developed with team owner Tony Stewart.

"We definitely struggled in the Cup car [in practice]," Patrick said. "But this was the plan, to do it difficult, and this is one of the places that would really challenge me . . .

Notes-N-Nuggets

• Greg Biffle earned his 11th career pole in his 341st start; his previous pole was six races ago at Bristol.
• Greg Biffle previously won the pole at Darlington in 2008 but finished last with an engine failure.
• A two-time Darlington race winner (2005 and 2006), Greg Biffle is the 25th driver to win more than one pole at the track.
• Friday was the first time in the five years since the track was repaved that a track record was not set in qualifying.
• This is the 82nd career pole for Roush Fenway Racing.
• Ford claimed its 41st pole at Darlington, the most among all manufacturers.
• Jimmie Johnson (second) earned his best start of the season and his best Darlington start since starting second in Aug. 2003.
• Kasey Kahne (third) hasn't started outside the top 10 in the past 10 races.
• Ryan Newman (fourth) earned his 11th top-10 start in his 14th Darlington race.
• Kyle Busch (fifth) picked up his best Darlington start in his eighth race.
• Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) earned his best career Darlington start.
• Denny Hamlin (eighth) is a beast at Darlington; his worst finish there in six starts is 13th.
• Regan Smith (ninth) starts in the top 10 as he attempts to repeat as race winner.
• Four drivers failed to qualify: Scott Riggs, Michael McDowell, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss. McDowell had qualified for all 10 previous races in 2012.

"I felt better in qualifying. I ran three quarters of a second quicker than I did in practice. For me, usually if I stink during practice, I don't usually find a lot in qualifying."