CONCORD, N.C. – Ryan Newman knows how to win poles at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Now “Flyin’ Ryan” wants to get that elusive victory at the track.
It might depend on getting through the first lap.
Newman turned a lap at 188.475 mph Thursday night to grab the top starting spot for the Coca-Cola 600. It was Newman’s eighth career pole at LMS – the most of any active driver – and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s 44th overall.
Kyle Busch will start second Sunday in NASCAR’s longest race after a lap of 188.258, and points leader Jeff Gordon qualified third.
Newman, Busch and Gordon were involved in a three-wide wreck last weekend at the track in the wild closing segment of the All-Star race. It helped Newman’s teammate, Tony Stewart, get the win.
“As of right now I’m going to call a meeting at the NASCAR hauler for all three teams to sit down and talk about the first lap,” Newman said, joking. “It’s kind of ironic how things work out.”
Newman was on the pole for both points races at LMS in 2007. He didn’t grab a pole here last year, but got his first of the Sprint Cup season in what’s been a successful run for the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet.
Sitting eighth in the standings, 238 points behind Gordon, Newman rocketed around the track that he’s mastered when it was bumpy and now also after the repaving project in 2006.
But while Newman is just six poles shy of David Pearson’s track record of 14, he’s winless in 16 points races at Charlotte.
“This is the weekend we’re going to try to change that,” Newman said.
Busch went out 35th of 48 cars and after the track has cooled. Busch was on pace to set the top speed, but was upset about his performance in the final two turns. A loud cheer erupted when the scoreboard showed NASCAR’s top villain didn’t knock Newman from the top spot.
“It’s hard to beat Flyin’ Ryan,” Busch said.
Mark Martin qualified fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth, joining Gordon to give Hendrick Motorsports three of the top five starting spots.
Gordon, who went out fifth of 48 cars, held the top spot for a while before the track cooled and Newman took it.
“Ryan is always a real threat for the pole,” Gordon said. “To end up third is fantastic. I’m very pleased with that.”
Defending champion Kasey Kahne nearly brushed the wall but still qualified sixth. Mike Bliss will start seventh, followed by Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Bill Elliott.
Needing to qualify on speed, Elliott blazed to a lap of 187.169 in the No. 21 Ford. That means the 1988 Cup champion will make his 800th career start.
Stewart had a poor lap of 185.778 mph in a different car than he won in last weekend and will start 28th. He’ll be right next to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who struggled at 185.829 mph, leaving him 27th.
J.J. Yeley, filling in for suspended driver Jeremy Mayfield, failed to qualify for the race with a lap of 184.093. The team still searching to qualify for its first race since Mayfield was suspended for failing a random drug test.
David Starr, Todd Bodine and Mike Garvey also failed to qualify.
Joey Logano qualified 14th, giving him a good position when he starts on his 19th birthday.
Long appeals suspension
NASCAR driver Carl Long has appealed his record suspension, allowing him to return to work at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Long arrived at the track to file his appeal, met with Sprint Cup Series director John Darby and then went back to work as a crew member on the No. 34 Chevrolet.
NASCAR deferred Long’s 12-race suspension until his June 2 appellate hearing, a move that will let him maintain his full-time job with the No. 34 team. On Wednesday, NASCAR suspended Long for the next 12 Sprint Cup races, docked him 200 points and fined crew chief Charles Swing $200,000. All were records punishments in the sport.