Ryan Newman grabbed the pole for the last race of NASCAR's "regular season" at Richmond International Raceway, and for a good reason. Newman must earn a good finish at RIR to ensure his position in the "NEXTEL Chase for the Championship" which officially begins with the close of the race at Richmond.
Newman's lap of 128.700 mph secured his fifth pole of the 2004 season and the 23rd of his career. Currently, Newman sits in 8th spot in the standings, with just 45 points separating Newman and 11th-placed Jamie McMurray.
"I don't look at it like pressure," said Newman. "I know it's a pivotal point in our season. All my team and I can do is our best, and focus on what we can do to make ourselves better, and stay focused on ourselves."
Mark Martin will join Newman on the front row with a lap of 127.407 mph. Martin also sits in a precarious position in the "Chase". Martin clawed his way into the top ten last weekend with a third place result at California Speedway; just 25 points separate Martin from falling from 10th to 11th spot if he does not garner a good result in the No. 6 Roush Ford this weekend.
"An incredible amount of pressure on the whole Viagra team," commented Martin. "We've been under pressure for a long time. We spotted the competition several hundred points, and have had to battle our way back. So, you're going to have to check with me after Saturday night, and I will talk more about it."
Jimmie Johnson, who regained the lead in NEXTEL Cup series points last weekend, put the No. 48 Chevy on the chart in third. It marks
"Very good for us," said Johnson who posted a lap of 127.389 mph. "We have been very good all day long. For tomorrow, for obvious reasons, it is going to be quite a night. There is a lot of pressure for a lot of teams Saturday.
"We are all used to dealing with pressure, if you are winning can you keep winning.when you add championship to that line of pressure it just multiplies it. Next weekend is the time to really get to work, this weekend we want to just get the momentum and there is pressure on me and the 24 to just have a good night and turn in a good finish."
Joe Nemechek and Jeff Burton close the top five.
Fifty-two cars attempted to qualify for the forty-three car field, failing to make the show were Mike Wallace, Jimmy Spencer, Todd Bodine, Derrike Cope, and Kirk Shelmerdine.
The Saturday night race at Richmond, which is always one of the most exciting events of the season, takes on a new light, as the top-15 driver's battle for the ten eligible positions to compete in NASCAR's "Chase for the Championship". Currently only positions one through seven have clinched their spot in the "chase".