For Jimmie Johnson, the last couple of seasons have been ones to forget. 2019 was beginning to look that way, until the No. 48 team unloaded a car with incredible speed. Johnson capitalized by pacing Friday’s practice session and then followed it up with his 36th-career pole position.
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Johnson was relieved with his first pole since July of 2016, but he realizes he has to put together a full 501 miles on Sunday. However, his team has done a better job this week of thinking outside the box on their car setup.
“It’s been a long couple of years, and we still have a ways to go,” said Johnson. “And, certainly race day is much more important than Friday, but we’ve been working so hard, and I think we are a bit guilty of trying too hard and maybe stepping outside of our comfort zone at times, and putting setups on the car at times that just aren’t proven yet. With all that said, we were very aggressive coming here and changing a lot of stuff on our mile-and-a-half program. Top of the chart all day long, and a great start for this Ally team. I’m really proud of everybody for keeping the faith and working hard.”
Obviously the entire Hendrick Motorsports team found something this week, as Johnson led a 1-2-3 sweep for HMS on the starting grid. The team’s fourth car, the No. 88 of Alex Bowman, was also fast but crashed in the opening round of qualifying.
William Byron will roll off from the outside of row one, and he said the results in qualifying were a result of impeccable teamwork.
“That is just a credit to the guys really, just giving us a fast car. Teamwork man! Just keeping the communication down to get that hole that we did. Just teamwork,” Byron said. “So its all good; its awesome!”
If the Hendrick guys can continue to work together on Sunday, perhaps the organization can record their first win of 2019.
Overall, Ford and Toyota have been the talk of the town so far in 2019, but Friday at Texas Chevrolet secured seven of the top-10 starting positions. Can they hang in for a great race on Sunday? Time will tell for sure, but they have a lot more hope than any race in the past year.