The six-time series champion qualified 14th Friday, worst among the four drivers eligible to win the championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. His No. 48 Chevrolet, which has yet to win at the 1.5-mile track, turned a lap at 174.345 mph in Saturday’s session, besting Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (173.332).
Championship contender Carl Edwards, who qualified 10th Friday, was third fastest at 172.949. Joey Logano, who is making his second appearance in the Championship Four, was sixth fastest (172.678) after missing the final round of qualifying Friday with Johnson (whom he will start alongside in 13th).
The fastest of the Championship Four in qualifying was the slowest in Saturday’s first practice. Kyle Busch, who will start ninth Sunday in search of his second consecutive title, was 28th fastest on the chart at 168.655 mph.