Jimmie Johnson chasing NASCAR history, not legacy

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Sprint Cup super power Joe Gibbs Racing has three cars among the top eight starters, including pole sitter Denny Hamlin, who led qualifying with a track record of 195.624 mph Thursday night. Kenseth, who won at Darlington two weeks ago, will start third while Kyle Busch starts eighth. Busch has won 11 times at Charlotte in the Nationwide and Truck series, but never on NASCAR’s biggest stage.

Defending champion Kasey Kahne, Johnson’s teammate, will start near the front in sixth.

Kurt Busch of Furniture Row Racing looked like he had taken his second straight pole after Darlington before Hamlin caught him by about five-hundreths of a second for the top spot. Kurt Busch led 69 of the first 73 laps at Darlington before fading to 14th. He’ll give it another go Sunday night.

“We know we’ve got some good things going right now,” he said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start at No. 11. He was on his way to victory in this race two years ago when he famously ran out of gas on the final lap and got passed by winner Kevin Harvick.

Danica Patrick is running her second Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. She finished 30th in 2012 and hoped to build on that in his first full season in the series. However, her engine was leaking oil during Saturday’s first practice session and her team was going to change it out, moving her to the back of the field for Sunday night.

Johnson can’t escape some critics. He jokingly took aim at them after his all-star win, saying he was simply “lucky.”

“That’s what people say. There’s no talent involved, we just got lucky tonight,” he said back on May 17.

If Johnson won’t tout his achievements, others in the garage are happy to do it.

“People can say whatever they want about him, but I don’t know how you can’t say that he’s not the best ever,” Kenseth said.

Johnson will think about those sorts of accolades later on when he’s finished winning races. There are too many standouts through the years, Johnson says, who have had wonderful careers and he’s simply happy that his name is mentioned among them.

“We just have the questions and the conversations” about who’s the greatest driver, Johnson said. “I’m glad we have those conversations in our sport.”

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