Newman On Pole For 600
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Concord, N.C. – The good times continue to roll for Stewart Haas Racing. Four days after team co-owner Tony Stewart gave the team its first win, in the Sprint All-Star race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, teammate Ryan Newman returned to the track and won the pole for the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600.
Newman turned a lap at 188.475 miles per hour to get his 44th pole in 272 Sprint Cup starts, and it came at the track and in the race where he scored his first Cup pole in 2001.
It was the first pole for the Stewart Haas team.
Kyle Busch will start second ahead of the Hendrick Motorsports trio of Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. The fourth Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., qualified 27th.
The top three starters are the same three who went three-wide for the lead late in last week’s All-Star race.
“It’s kind of ironic how things work out,” Newman said, adding jokingly that he planned to call a meeting in the NASCAR hauler to talk about the start of Sunday’s race.
Newman, on a more serious note, said it’s taken a lot of teamwork by all the people at Stewart Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to have an all-star win and a pole back to back.
“The guys have done a great job, everybody involved,” he said, adding that both he and Stewart, who qualified 28th, have great cars for the 600.
Three of the bigger surprises in qualifying were “go or go home” drivers for teams outside the top 35 in car owner points. Mike Bliss will start seventh in James Finch’s No. 09 Dodge, and Bill Elliott will start 10th in the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford. Joe Nemechek will start his own Toyota 11th.
Bliss said the team’s set up for qualifying was different than anything he’d ever run, but it worked.
“We’re just trying hard to get better,” he said. “These guys do a good job in qualifying.”
Elliott’s crew chief David Hyder predicted early in the day that his car would surprise some people before the day was over.
Afterwards, he could proudly say, “I told you so.”
Elliott said the key to the strong run was coming to the Sprint Showdown last week and learning from that experience.
“I’m so glad we came here and ran last week,” he said. “They weren’t planning on doing it and I sat down and talked to Len [Wood], Eddie [Wood] and Hyder at Texas and I said, ‘Look guys, if there’s anyway, we need to try to run the All-Star weekend. We can learn so much,’
“We came over here and made some changes and that was good. We came with kind of a whole different deal than we had last week and it really paid off.
“I’ve been out of the car for awhile and you need to do this stuff every week and it just makes you better, and what we changed from last week to tonight really helped a lot.”
Joey Logano was the fastest rookie, in 14th place. Missing the field were J.J. Yeley, Mike Garvey, Todd Bodine and David Starr.
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org