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 win his first pole of the season.

Johnson, a two-time race winner this season, could use a boost following a five-race slump in which he failed to finish better than 13th. He has crashed out of his last 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 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 contributed to the Hendrick Motorsports losing drought over the last 13 races. Johnson’s win March 20 in Fontana, California, was the last for a Hendrick driver.

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

“The car wasn’t driving as well as I would have liked it to drive for qualifying,” Busch said. “But good speed, that’s what matters right now and being able to put up a good lap like that.”

Here’s what else was going on during Friday’s qualifying:

IT’S ON THE POLE: Johnson has 35 poles in 526 career Sprint Cup starts, but this is his first in 29 career 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. Johnson has nine top-10 starts this season.

DRIVE FOR FIVE: Brad Keselowski starts ninth as he tries for his fifth victory of the season.

“It is nice to have four wins. I wish they meant more. When it comes Chase time, I have four stickers on my car and that is about it,” he said.

TESTING, TESTING: Earnhardt, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola were the only drivers to participate in a two-day Goodyear tire test last month at New Hampshire.

“The fact that Dale tested here, it makes (his absence) a larger issue,” Johnson said. “Those face-to-face conversations are so much more important than reading notes. We’re going to miss that part, for sure.”

BOWMAN’S START: Bowman, 23, had no top-10 finishes in 71 starts over the 2014-15 seasons with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. He drives part-time in the second-tier Xfinity Series for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team.

“I felt like we probably could have qualified a little better,” he said. “I probably didn’t do the best job I possibly could have and we got a little too tight off. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has worked really hard on this thing. Obviously, I hope Dale is feeling better.

GORDON SET TO GO: Jeff Gordon is ready to pull his firesuit out of storage and come off the bench for one more shot at winning one of NASCAR’s crown jewel races.

Gordon, the four-time NAS-CAR champion, could make his retirement a brief one and go for his sixth win at the Brickyard next weekend in Indianapolis if Earnhardt is not cleared to return.

While retirement talk for the 41-year-old Earnhardt might be premature, his history of concussions could accelerate the process on when he decides to hang up the helmet.

Gordon thought he was finished, walking away at the end of last season and one final championship run from one of NAS-CAR’s all-time great careers: 93 wins, four series championships and more than $150 million in winnings.

But he is the obvious choice to pinch-drive in the No. 88 Chevrolet for Earnhardt, his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate, at one of his favorite tracks. Gordon won the last of his record five Brickyard 400 victories in 2014.

“He’s not a bad person to think about to put in the car,” Hendrick General Manager Doug Duchardt said Friday.