The Washington Times - October 9, 2008, 05:19PM

By Reid Spencer Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service (October 9, 2008) CONCORD, N.C.—The rich get richer.

Two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and current Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Jimmie Johnson will start from the pole in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, after rain forced the cancelation of Thursday’s qualifying session.


With the field set according to owner points, the 12 drivers in the Chase will start from the top 12 spots on the grid. The rainout, the eighth of the season, also means that Brad Keselowski, Bryan Clauson and Scott Speed will have to wait to make their respective Cup debuts, given that the cars they were slated to drive had fewer qualifying attempts than eight other cars that needed to make the field on speed.

Carl Edwards will start beside Johnson on the front row. Starting third through 12th, in order, are Chasers Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

With the pole comes first choice of pit stalls, which puts Johnson in the box closest to the exit from pit row.

“Having the first pit stall is going to be an advantage,” acknowledged Johnson, who got in seven laps of practice in his Nationwide Series car but none in the No. 48 Cup car. “We’ve had some things happen on pit road here.”

Johnson dominated competition at LMS, winning four straight races and five of six before the racing surface was repaved in 2006. His two most recent finishes were 14th last October and 39th in May, the result of an engine failure.

“I hope that we can get that magic back and find it here,” said Johnson, indicating he expected non-Chaser Kasey Kahne, who won both the Coca-Cola 600 and the non-points Sprint All-Star race in May, to be a serious threat on Saturday. “It’s going to be nice to have that track position, but we’re all there together in one big group, and we’ll just race from there.”

Edwards, second in the Chase standings, triggered a late-race wreck last Sunday at Talladega and trails Johnson by 72 points. Edwards, however, says he won’t go overboard in trying to lead the first lap of the race in an attempt to gain five bonus points and deprive Johnson of five.

“If it works out, I’ll try to keep him from leading a lap,” Edwards said. “The probability is that he will probably lead a lap, so the biggest thing is not to get too excited about the first lap. This is a 500-mile race. I’ve made the mistake before of trying really hard on the first lap because of points and caused myself a lot of trouble, so I’m not going to worry too much about the first lap.”

Note: Veteran Derrike Cope also was a rainout victim and will not be part of the 43-car field.