Friday, October 12, 2007

Newman scores 42nd career pole at Cup Bank of America 500

CONCORD, North Carolina (Ticker) - He's been called "Flyin' Ryan" and Ryan Newman lived up to that nickname Thursday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Newman won the pole for Saturday night's NASCAR Nextel Cup Bank of America 500 with a lap at 189.394 miles per hour around the 1 1/2-mile oval.

It was Newman's 42nd career Cup pole in 219 starts and his fifth pole this season. It was also his seventh pole and 12th top-10 start in 14 races at LMS, one of NASCAR's most historic venues that is located just outside Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The track is very fast tonight and just a good run," Newman said. "I knew Jimmie would be tough here. It's great to be able to do this. We came off the track fast and did some qualifying runs. It was just a matter of beating the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car.

"If I had to do it all over again maybe I could have done it better. Maybe not."

Newman's run knocked Jimmie Johnson off the pole after the No. 2 driver in "The Chase" ran a lap at 188.990 mph in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

"I'm not surprised by that time," Johnson said of Newman's lap. "I couldn't have gone any faster. That's all I had. I think we'll still be in good shape for the race. It's one of the better qualifying spots that I've had here.

"Ryan nipped us by just a little bit. I'm looking forward to a good weekend."

Newman is not one of the 12 drivers in "The Chase." Johnson is second in points, nine behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who qualified fourth at 188.298 mph just behind non-Chase driver Bobby Labonte.

Only the top four drivers in "The Chase" are within 200 points of the lead so this race could be critical to the eight other drivers who are rapidly losing touch with the leaders.

"I would think so but it depends on what the guys up front do in this race," Johnson said. "It's getting more and more difficult as the races go by. If you collect first through fourth in the points, those other guys are back in it."

Starting up front is important to Johnson, who has five wins, including sweeps of both races in 2004 and 2005, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 12 previous Cup starts here.

"When you are able to keep track position it makes the race that much easier for you," Johnson said. "At Kansas we had a good car in traffic but didn't have enough to win. If you can stay up there with the guys racing for the win it really helps you. It's better to get off to a good start. Those things all help us focus on qualifying."

Labonte was third in a Dodge. It was his eighth top-10 start in 2007 and best starting position since third at Bristol in August 2006.

"I thought our lap was great," Labonte said. "It was an uneventful lap. The car started well and turned well. It was a good lap for us."

Labonte is coming off a good race at Talladega, Alabama last Sunday before he was involved in a crash after 144 laps. He started eighth but finished 35th.

"Last weekend was really good for us," Labonte said. "The restrictor plate program we had at Talladega was the best we've had since I've been at Petty Enterprises with Evernham engines. I think we're gaining on it. To come here at Charlotte we always run good here. It's one of our strongest tracks that we come to. Hopefully we can have some momentum on our side.

"We still need to be a little bit better for 400 or 500 miles."

Defending race winner Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five with a lap at 188.088 mph in a Dodge.

Newman said he felt the additional speed in his car on his out lap when he came off the pits before running under the clock for the pole run.

"You could feel the speed and it was a great lap for us," Newman said. "We have a job to do on qualifying day and a car to do on race day. Today was all about getting the car first. I don't look at it as trying to create fame because we're not in The Chase; it's about getting the job done."

With most of the NASCAR Nextel Cup teams based in the Charlotte area, winning anything at this track is a big deal to the drivers in the series, even if they aren't in "The Chase."

"It's about getting it done in your backyard about beating everybody on your home turf," said Newman, who hasn't won a Cup race since September 18, 2005 at Loudon, New Hampshire. "If we had 20 poles at his point in my career and 12 wins, people would think that's acceptable. Maybe we've won too many poles. It's easier to do one lap than 325 that we do here on a given night.

"It's still fun either way it's that qualifying seems to be one of our strong suits."

Clint Bowyer, third in The Chase, qualified 25th at 186.374 mph in a Chevrolet. He is 63 points out of first. Tony Stewart, fourth in points 154 behind, qualified 29th at 185.842 mph in a Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick, fifth in the Chase but 202 out of the lead, qualified 24th at 186.419 mph in a Chevrolet.

All other drivers in The Chase are 205 or more points out of the lead.

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