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Jimmie Johnson earns Sprint Cup pole at New Hampshire

LOUDON, N.H. — Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports a needed bright spot, turning a lap of 133.971 mph Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to earn his first pole this season.

Johnson, a two-time race winner this season, could use a boost in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 after a five-race slump where he failed to finish better than 13th. He has crashed out of his past two races, finishing 35th at Daytona International Speedway and 32nd last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

He was the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver in the top five.

Hendrick suffered a blow this week when Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped out of Sunday's race because of symptoms from a concussion. Alex Bowman, making his first Sprint Cup start of the season, qualified 20th subbing for Earnhardt.

Johnson, Earnhardt, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott have all contributed to the team's drought over the past 13 races. Johnson won March 20 in Fontana, Calif.

Kyle Busch was second in qualifying, followed by Martin Truex, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin.

Johnson has 35 poles in 526 career NASCAR starts, but it was his first pole in 29 career Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire. He's a three-time winner at New Hampshire and one of only two drivers to win two straight times on the track. He has nine top-10 starts this season.

Ruling in death: A Pennsylvania jury ruled that Pocono Raceway didn't cause harm to a man killed by lightning minutes after an August 2012 NASCAR race was stopped. The jury ruled in favor of the track, in Long Pond, Pa., and NASCAR on Monday, the Pocono Record reported. The jury found the racetrack negligent but not a "factual cause" of any harm to Brian Zimmerman. He was killed in the parking lot outside the main grandstands of the track.

Jimmie Johnson earns Sprint Cup pole at New Hampshire 07/15/16 [Last modified: Friday, July 15, 2016 10:01pm]
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