Super-rookie Ryan Newman took to the track 45th and promptly knocked Jeff Gordon out of contention taking the Bud pole. Newman, who had the fastest car in practice, beat Gordon by three-hundredths of a second. "Knocking him off the pole here was...
Super-rookie Ryan Newman took to the track 45th and promptly knocked Jeff Gordon out of contention taking the Bud pole. Newman, who had the fastest car in practice, beat Gordon by three-hundredths of a second. "Knocking him off the pole here was pretty big," Newman said. "I'm happy we did it." This is Newman's fourth pole of the season, matching Bill Elliot and Jimmie Johnson.
Many drivers were thrown during practice and qualifying by the track's new surface. The track had the lower grooves in the turns ground down to remove some of the bumps. The new surface created a coarser surface that proved difficult to maneuver for some drivers. Newman, however, seemed to take the surface change in stride, "The curb's in the same spot. The wall's in the same spot," Newman said. "It's the same old concrete. It's just ground up in some spots, but it still takes the best car and the best driver to get the best lap in." Gordon, who will start second on Sunday, also was confused by the decision to make changes to the track, "This place has been so good to me. We've always had a great setup for this place. I really didn't want to see them make any changes." Dave Blaney who had a close call on track already commented, "Less grip. It's just so uneven, where they ground it, you can't get a full tire patch on the ground." Drivers were not openly concerned that the track would pose any risk to them this weekend, but were anxious on how the coarser surface would affect tire wear. Gordon and others are planning on monitoring the situation during a long practice on Saturday.
Bill Elliot and Ward Burton will start in the third and fourth, Joe Nemechek and Rusty Wallace start fifth and sixth. Jimmie Johnson, who trails point leader Tony Stewart by 97 points rolls off 7th. Hermie Sadler, Mike Skinner and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. round out the top ten. Sadler's 8th place starting spot marks a career best for him; brother Elliott will take the flag in 39th.
Kevin Harvick, who sat out the spring race at Martinsville under penalty from NASCAR for rough driving, guessed at the set-up and will start 13th.
In addition, to the rougher surface at Martinsville, NASCAR's new spotter rule will also go into affect this weekend. Every time the cars take to the track, NASCAR will take a roll call and if the team's spotter is not in the designated position the car will not be able to go onto the track.
Hideo Fukuyama makes his second Winston Cup start in 43rd. Point's leader Tony Stewart starts 31rst.