Thursday, November 22, 2007

Newman Earns Front Row Starting Position

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 16, 2007) ¿ Ryan Newman snatched a front row starting position in qualifying Friday for this weekend's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while Kurt Busch collected a top five and Sam Hornish Jr. nailed down a starting spot in a NASCAR Cup race for the second straight week.

Newman's 30.583-second lap ¿ 176.569 mph ¿ in his Alltel Dodge Charger initially provided the Indiana native with the provisional pole. However, he eventually had to settle for second due to points leader Jimmie Johnson's lap that was only 0.038 second quicker than Newman.

"I really didn't expect Jimmie (Johnson) to come and bust out that lap. I really thought that after practice Kasey (Kahne) was going to be the guy to beat ¿ he just wasn¿t the only guy to beat," said Newman, who was the top qualifying Dodge on the 1.5-mile track.

Newman, who now possesses four top-five starts at Homestead, said he didn't think his qualifying lap was as good as it was speed-wise.

"When they said it was a 58 (seconds) I was like, 'Man, that is really good,'" continued Newman, who tied his best qualifying effort. "Knowing that the track was a little bit hotter, we tuned on the car and made it over a 10th quicker."
Busch and his Miller Lite team experienced quite an interesting day when compared to that of his teammates. First, there was an encounter with the wall. Next, the Miller Lite Dodge had a leaking radiator.

Friday's morning practice was only five laps old when the No. 2 Dodge Charger broke loose and smacked the wall between turns 3 and 4. The damage sustained to the car's right side forced Busch into the garage for extensive repairs.

The Pat Tryson-led team repaired the damage in time to have Busch back on the track with 25 minutes remaining in the 90-minute session. Beating the odds, Busch clocked in with the seventh-fastest practice lap.

But the team's troubles weren't over. After a fine stream of fluid was detected under the front of the Miller Lite Dodge, it was determined that the car had a leaking radiator. Quick work by the team between practice and qualifying had the blue deuce late through the tech line, yet on schedule to take to the track 19th in the qualifying order, as mandated by the morning's draw.

"It's been quite an interesting day here, to say the least,¿ said Busch, who recorded a 30.692-second, 175.942-mph lap for the fifth starting position. "Today certainly illustrates what a great team that our Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Dodge crew is. We were definitely behind the eight ball, but nobody panicked. We picked up almost a 10th and a half (of a second) between practice and qualifying and we can¿t ask for much more than that. To have a shot at Ryan (Newman) on a Friday qualifying day -- that means you did something good.

"I am confident that we¿ll have a car capable of winning the race here on Sunday. It¿ll certainly be a special win if we can pull it off. Tomorrow¿s two practice sessions may just be the two most important practices of the entire year.¿

Hornish's 31.021-second, 174.076-mph lap provided the Mobil 1 Dodge Charger with the 29th starting position.

"For the most part, it was pretty good," Hornish said about his qualifying lap that made him the sixth fastest among the 14 drivers that had to make the grid on speed. "We were a little bit too tight with the car. That hurt us a little bit, but I think our times are pretty respectable."

Hornish made his Cup debut last weekend in the Car of Tomorrow ¿ Dodge Avenger ¿ but qualified Friday in the Dodge Charger. The Ohio native admits that unlike most NASCAR drivers, he's glad the COT will be used in every race next year.

"I¿m so used to a car that doesn¿t move around this much [as the Dodge Charger]," Hornish said. "The Car of Tomorrow is a jump in that direction. It¿s not anywhere near it, but it¿s more in that range. I actually like the Car of Tomorrow a lot better because it doesn¿t move around as much (as the Charger)."

Coverage of Sunday's Ford 400 begins at 3 p.m. on ABC and MRN Radio.

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