INDIANAPOLIS — David Ragan, in the midst of a career breakthrough, added the pole for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to his suddenly improved resume.
Ragan earned his first career Sprint Cup Series victory earlier this month at Daytona, a track long considered to be the crown jewel track of NASCAR. Indianapolis ranks among the most prestigious tracks in the world, and Ragan's pole-winning run Saturday was no small feat.
He made his run late in the session, with three-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson holding down the top spot on the leaderboard. Ragan turned a lap of 182.994 mph in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford to bump Johnson from the pole.
It's Ragan's second career pole. His first came in April at Texas.
"It was a good lap, I didn't make a mistake," Ragan said. "It wasn't as aggressive as I wanted to be. But I knew if I hit my marks, had a conservative lap, I'd at least have a top-five."
Kasey Kahne made his qualifying run after Ragan and jumped in front of Johnson with a lap at 182.927 mph in a Toyota from Red Bull Racing.
Johnson, the five-time defending series champion, fell to third. His lap of 182.801 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had led the qualifying session until the late runs by Ragan and Kahne.
Penske Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski qualified fourth and fifth in their Dodges for Sunday's race.
AJ Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and series points leader Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.
David Stremme, Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell, JJ Yeley and Scott Wimmer were the five drivers who failed to qualify for the race.
Denny Hamlin qualified 14th, but he'll have to drop to the back of the field at the start of the race as a penalty for changing his engine. The move was necessary because the engine in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota blew up late in Friday's final practice.
It's at least the 11th engine failure by a JGR car this season, and comes as speculation mounts that the team will close its engine shop and lease engines next season from manufacturer Toyota.
Dropping to the back of the field probably won't work to Hamlin's advantage, either. Only four of the previous 17 Brickyard winners started worse than 15th, and the farthest back a winning driver has started was Jeff Gordon at 27th in 2001.
But it may not be much easier at the front for Ragan: The pole-winner has only gone on to win Indianapolis twice before, Kevin Harvick in 2003 and Johnson in 2008.