LONG POND —NASCAR didn’t waste any time waving the white flag — the one that signals surrender — on Friday afternoon. Rain was the only thing to get on the track at Pocono Raceway.
Qualifying was cancelled well before the scheduled 3:40 p.m. start, and the field for Sunday’s Party in the Poconos 400 presented by Walmart will be set via owners points. That means Jimmie Johnson will be on the pole for the Sprint Cup race that will start at 1 p.m.
“There are a lot of good benefits from starting on the pole, from track position to pit road picks,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet. “We’ll take it.”
Considering Johnson has started in the front row six times at Pocono but none since 2009, he probably will. It will be his first pole start at the 2.5-mile tri-oval since the August 2008 race, although it won’t be recognized as winning the pole for statistical purposes.
“The great season that we had so far and the quick start, it’s nice to have that,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the benefits (as the points leader) when things rain out. So we certainly earned this first starting spot, and we’ll try to take advantage of it on Sunday.”
Neither the Cup nor ARCA drivers were able to practice Friday. All track activities were scrapped just after 2 p.m. The field for today’s ARCA Pocono 200 will also be set by owners points.
The raceway revamped today’s schedule. ARCA drivers will have a 30-minute practice session starting at 9 a.m. Cup drivers will practice twice today — for an hour starting at 10 a.m. and for 50 minutes starting at 11:40 a.m. The ARCA race will start at 1 p.m. as originally scheduled.
The weather should be much more cooperative today with just a 10 percent chance of rain in the afternoon.
Joey Logano, the defending Pocono 400 champion, was affected more than any other driver. He planned on practicing and qualifying Friday at Pocono, then getting on a plane and flying to Newtown, Iowa, to practice at 7 p.m. for the Nationwide race. Nationwide qualifying is 5:05 p.m. today with the race starting at 8 p.m.
“We’ll do what we’ve got to do to make sure we get all the track time here and to make sure we have our best shot here,” said Logano, who pilots the No. 22 Ford. “If you look at our season, we’re 18th in points, but we’re really close to the Chase. We’re only 30-something points out I think, so we’re very capable of getting in the Chase this year and we can’t afford to not give it our all at this point.”
Denny Hamlin was also hurt by the rainout. His average Pocono starting position of 5.6 leads all active drivers. He has also won four times here and was looking to continue his climb in the Chase standings. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota missed four races because of a crash March 24 at Auto Club Speedway in California that resulted in a back injury. He is 26th in the driver standings, but will start 17th based on owners points.
“One thing is since we’ve been on such a qualifying role, I don’t know what our average is with me in the car but it’s been pretty low,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, not qualifying will hurt us. Also, we’re going to lose a practice in a sense of trying to get a feel for what we’ve got for power and that nature.
“We’d like to have practice, but everybody’s in the same boat. Seventeenth, it’s not too bad of a deal. This race is long enough where you can make up for it. But obviously, if you qualify inside that top five you’ll have those opportunities for pit selections, for the pit timing marks. All those little things help you finish well.”