CONCORD, North Carolina (AP) - Jimmie Johnson earned the pole for NASCAR's All-Star Race on Friday at a Lowe's Motor Speedway where he has a history of dominance.
The three-time defending series champion won five of six points races at Lowe's from 2003-05. He's in position to return to the top spot after being the star of the unusual qualifying format.
Teams had to go three laps and make a four-tire pit stop without speeding down pit road or leaving loose lug nuts.
Time penalties for those infractions cost several drivers, but not Johnson. He had a speedy first lap, but shot to the front by being the fastest out of the pits - 119 mph (192 kph).
He finished in 2 minutes, 1.416 seconds, then held off all challengers. Kurt Busch will start second in the 100-lap non-points shootout on Saturday that pays the winner $1 million.
"I think with track position as important as it's going to be in the race, to be where we are is a great situation," Johnson said. "We focused on it hard today and everybody did their jobs.
Busch finished in 2:02.187. Matt Kenseth will start third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
"Jimmie Johnson, the 48 guys are always the tough ones to beat here at Lowe's, no matter what event it is," Busch said. "But overall I'm very happy with our lap. To be starting outside pole, that's almost as good as starting on the pole here at Lowe's."
Jeff Gordon qualified sixth, followed by Bobby Labonte, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.
It was a much lighter atmosphere than qualifying for points races. Not everybody even knew the rules.
Tony Stewart sped away from his pit stall after his team had changed only two tires. As his crew stood baffled, Stewart stopped down pit road.
"I'll be right back," Stewart said through his radio before returning for the left-side tires. He will start 15th.
Jeff Burton, whose team won Thursday's pit crew competition, was penalized for entering pit road too fast. He'll start 16th.
Qualifying consisted of 18 drivers who got into the All-Star field thanks to victories in the past year or by being former race or series champions.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.