Johnson, a five-time champion, gained not only the top starting spot, but the stall at the front of pit road, giving him unimpeded access to the track.
He trails Keselowski by seven points with four races remaining. Denny Hamlin, who is third in the points race and 13 behind Johnson, will start fifth.
Johnson says he will be cautious. He started 22nd at the track in the spring and nearly won, so he knows it can be done.