Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent
Ryan Newman fastest in qualifying, Edwards, Kenseth to start 2nd & 3rd
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner/driver Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet may have been one of the slowest cars during qualifying on Friday for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but his teammate and employee Ryan Newman was at the opposite end of the speed chart. Ryan Newman got the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet around the track in 15.624 seconds to claim the pole starting spot.
“It (the track) isn’t quite as demanding as it used to be, physically,” Newman said. “Part of that is that the bumps and part of it is that the speed is down just a little bit.”
Ryan did a good job, and we did everything right today.
Carl Edwards claimed the second position on the starting grid for his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with a lap time of 15.642 seconds. Edwards was the last driver to make a qualifying attempt. Another RFR driver, Matt Kenseth was third-fastest after turning a 15.643-second lap in the No. 17 Ford.
“I least I will be on the front row,” Edwards said. “I won’t get anything in my teeth up there on the Aflac Dental car on the first lap at least. Ryan did a good job, and we did everything right today.”
Clint Bowyer put his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet on the provisional pole early with a lap time of 15.727 seconds and remained at the top for a while until he was knocked from the position by Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with a lap time of 15.725 seconds. Biffle’s time up front was short lived before he dropped to second when Jimmie Johnson took the provisional pole away with a 15.725-second lap in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
The trio of Johnson, Biffle and Bowyer maintained the top-three spots in qualifying for quite some time before Marcos Ambrose crashed the party in his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to claim the provisional pole with a lap time of 15.715 seconds.
Johnson, Biffle and Bowyer were eventually shuffled outside the top-10 as Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet (15.659 seconds), Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (15.654 seconds) and Newman all spent time at the top of the leader board and several other drivers posted fast enough qualifying laps to get themselves spots on the starting grid inside the top-10..
By the end of qualifying, Gordon wound up fourth, and Mark Martin qualified the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the fifth spot by turning in a 15.658-second lap. McMurray wound up sixth.
Forty-six drivers attempted qualifying laps to claim the 43 spots on the starting grid. T.J. Bell, J.J. Yeley and Jeff Green were the three odd men out who will not race on Saturday.