KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Jimmie Johnson had a wild ride qualifying for Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.
The five-time champion got so lost in Turns 1 and 2 that he nearly put his car into the wall. He wound up straightening out along the back stretch but it cost him plenty of momentum, and he wound up qualifying 15th for the STP 400.
"Yeah, my commitment level was a little higher than my grip level in 1 and 2 that first time through," said Johnson, a two-time winner at Kansas. "I just want to get a pole bad, and I know we have the race car that's capable of it."
Johnson has struggled to qualify the last few weeks. He started 22nd at Bristol, was 10th at Fontana, and 22nd at Martinsville. He was 10th last week at Texas and led much of the race, ultimately getting passed by Greg Biffle with 30 laps remaining and finishing second.
"I think going as fast as we did on our second lap showed the type of car we had," Johnson said. "Just coming out cold turkey, I went in there over 100 percent. I know now. I wish I had known that before I turned off into Turn 1. But it was just an awful 1 and 2 and I got an OK lap."
Johnson said he hoped it would hold up for a top-15 start.
That wound up being exactly where he landed.
"We know we've got an awesome race car," said Johnson, who hasn't won since last October at Kansas. "I just hope we didn't hurt ourselves too bad with that."
WATCH THE POTHOLES
JIMMIE GOES GREEN
: Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 will be dressed in pewter-like green on Sunday, the first in a series of new color combinations to pay tribute to American muscle cars.
The color is technically called "Mountain Green," and was one of General Motors' classic color combinations from 1967, appearing on every model of passenger car except the Corvette.
Johnson's team chose the greenish color to coincide with Earth Day, which is Sunday.
"When we were researching colors, it just made sense that we used green for this weekend," said David Sutphin, who manages sports marketing for primary sponsor Lowe's.
I know we have some muscle car fans out there," said Johnson, who owns a 1968 Camaro. "I'm sure there are quite a few people who still have this color car. I think it's a cool way for us to connect with those fans."
: Three-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart beat a hasty retreat from Kansas Speedway after qualifying 23rd for Sunday's race.
Stewart was headed for Lincoln, Neb., where he was planning to run his sprint car in the Ice Breaker Challenge at Eagle Raceway. Stewart won the 1994 USAC Summer Midget Classic at the track.
"I'm pretty excited about getting there and getting a chance to run my sprint car again," he said. "I've got 40 races on my schedule this year, so I've got more sprint-car races than I do stock-car races. I'm pretty happy about that."
Stewart's roots are on the dirt. He got his start racing midgets in the Midwest and won his first World of Outlaws race in Canada last July. He also owns Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, where he hosts an annual late model race to raise money for charity.
: The decision to repave Kansas Speedway this summer has received mixed reactions from drivers concerned that it will lose some of its character.
Well, at least they won't have to watch out for potholes.
Track president Pat Warren said a chunk of loose asphalt was found in the apex of Turns 2 and 2 during a routine inspection following practice Friday night. The chunk, about the size and shape of a banana, was removed and a substance called Polygem was used to fill the hole.
"This is what we're starting to deal with all over the track," Warren said.
The repaving of the track will begin immediately after summer's race, and there will be a slight reconfiguring to create variable banking in the corners. The construction should be done by September, which will allow for tire testing before the October race weekend.