Newman on pole in Charlotte

Newman on pole in Charlotte
May 24, 2003, 8:18 PM

CONCORD, NC - After a two-day rain storm that soaked the greater Charlotte area, causing localized flooding and soggy conditions, a break in the storm cell finally allowed for NASCAR to get off Bud pole qualifying for the Winston cup ...

CONCORD, NC - After a two-day rain storm that soaked the greater Charlotte area, causing localized flooding and soggy conditions, a break in the storm cell finally allowed for NASCAR to get off Bud pole qualifying for the Winston cup series.

Ryan Newman.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
Ryan Newman went out second but managed to hold the pole with a lap of 185.312 mph. It is Newman's third pole this year and ninth of his career; Newman gained his first career pole at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2001.

"Starting up front in a 600-mile race is pretty important," said Newman. "I just hope we can have a good race on Sunday. That's what we really need. I'm looking forward to another race so we can redeem ourselves. When you've got conditions that change the track as much as they do here the possibility of starting out with the right setup is not too great. We haven't made the 600 miles yet."

Starting second will be the No. 38 RYR Ford of Elliott Sadler charting a lap of 184.300 mph.

Elliott Sadler.
Photo by Autostock.
"We've got plenty of horsepower," said Sadler. "This is a great race car. It's the same car I had in Texas and led the most laps with. I think the worst it's qualified all year is third, so it's a great car and I'm looking forward to a good 600.

"We had an awful week last week. Both the 38 and the 88 made a lot of changes this week. We had a lot of brainstorming sessions and I hope that will pay off for us come Sunday."

Mike Skinner in the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Pontiac rolls off third, in his best start this year.

"I used to be known for qualifying pretty good," said Skinner. "Since I've been with this race team, I've really struggled with that. We qualify fairly good at two or three races a year and then we've struggled a lot.

"It's just about communication and getting the right set-up under the car. Either I'm saying the wrong things or they're hearing the wrong things and we're really working on that."

Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon starts the No. 24 Chevy in fourth, in his eighth top-ten start this year.

"We picked up quite a bit from practice," said Gordon. "So, I am real happy with that. The car was beautiful."

Rookie Jack Sprague takes the green in fifth. He is the highest starting rookie in this week's field. This is Sprague's first career Winston Cup start in the top-ten.

"It's a lot easier to drive a good race car fast than it is a miserable car," said Sprague.

"This is the first car that Tony Furr (crew chief) built, and I've got a better car for Dover. I'm not doing anything different. It was a good race car, and it went quick."

Defending pole winner Jimmie Johnson, was fastest in the initial practice running 185.688 mph. Johnson, who holds the track qualifying record with a lap of 186.464 mph (May 2000) had issues with the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy. Before taking the green flag to start his qualifying effort, Johnson slowed on the apron of the track and brought the No. 48 to pit road with a broken motor. Johnson will take a provisional and start 37th.

"I was coming up through the gears trying to leave pit road and something failed in the engine," said Johnson. "We're not sure what. Obviously, it really early to find out what's going on. I'm disappointed and I know the guys are. I'm just glad we found it now instead of halfway into a 600-mile race. So, we'll take a look at things and see what happened and we'll go from there."

Last year's race winner Mark Martin will start the No. 6 Roush Ford well back, in 21st.

"That was awesome," said Martin. "I wish I would have hit it perfectly because there was probably another tenth in it, but that's probably gonna be better than we had hoped for. We started 25th last year and we had a car that could contend to win and I know this car can do it, if we get the right setup under it for Sunday night."

Current championship point leader Matt Kenseth will start 18th. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who trails Kenseth by just twenty points motors the No. 8 DEI Chevy off 24th.

Qualifying was delayed a day due to inclement weather that washed out all on-track activities on Thursday. Incessant sprinkling continued well into Friday morning as jet dryers battled to keep the track race-able. Cooler than average conditions met the racers at the beginning of qualifying, but the sun finally broke through the cloud-cover about half-way through the event.

Forty-six drivers attempted to qualify for the forty-three-car field; failing to make the show were Brett Bodine, Hermie Sadler and Derrike Cope.

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