Points leader Johnson takes pole at Dover qualifying

DOVER, Del. -- Jimmie Johnson will start Dover first in the standings and on the track.

The Nextel Cup points leader got another boost in his bid for a
second straight title, taking the top spot with a lap of 154.765 mph Friday at Dover International Speedway, his second pole of the season.

Johnson leads the points standings heading into the second race
of NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship. He hasn't started worse than ninth in any of the last eight races.

"It's tough to say how important track position is going to be," Johnson said. "The thing I'm most excited about is having the first pit stall."

Johnson and Jeff Gordon both have 5,210 points, but Johnson's
series-high six victories give him the edge. Gordon has four.

Six of the Chase drivers will start in the top 10 of Sunday's race. Denny Hamlin was third, Kurt Busch fourth, Martin Truex Jr. fifth, Kevin Harvick was seventh and Matt Kenseth was 10th.

Other Chase drivers saw Carl Edwards in 15th and Kyle Busch in 22nd. Gordon (second in the standings) and Tony Stewart (third), both former champions, will start a disappointing 27th and 28th.

Clint Bowyer, who gained a huge confidence boost with his first
career win last week at New Hampshire, was the worst Chase qualifier. He started in the back of the field at 42nd after having to qualify on owner's points. He did not record a lap speed.

"We've got the 12 best guys in this sport, and there's six or seven right now that all have momentum," Johnson said. "It's going to be a great battle all the way to the end."

Although Johnson said no driver could be counted out over the final nine races, he was looking forward to a battle down the stretch with Gordon and Stewart. Johnson, Stewart and Gordon are easily the most accomplished drivers in the Chase, and all three are favorites to win this one.

Johnson, who finished 15th on the Monster Mile in June, is joined on the front row by Cup rookie Juan Pablo Montoya, who turned a lap of 153.833 and earned his third second-place start of the season. Montoya hasn't recorded a top 10 finish in his last seven races.

Montoya said he was encouraged that his team's adjustments paid off.

"When you can nail change after change after change, all of a sudden you're really competitive," he said. "We just need to work a little harder to make sure every time we come into the race weekend, we can actually be competitive straight off the bat."

Scott Riggs, required to make the field on time, qualified sixth. Bobby Labonte was eighth and Greg Biffle ninth.

Three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr., hoping to make his
Cup debut, failed to qualify on speed for the second straight week.