South Bend, Indiana native and Purdue University graduate Ryan Newman was thrilled to make his own bit of history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon by winning the pole for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400.
Newman earned tremendous cheers from his home fans after he knocked Jimmie Johnson off the top spot in the final qualifying attempt of the day. His lap of 187.531 miles per hour also enabled him to claim the NASCAR qualifying record at Indy.
“I got emotional on the backstretch when they told me [that I had the pole],” Newman said in a post-race press conference. “It’s special to me because it’s Indiana, but it’s even more special because it’s the Brickyard and the history of auto racing at this facility. So many drivers who were my heroes, so many drivers that I’ve admired, so many drivers that have worked so hard in their career to get to here – and on this day, to be the fastest one, that is what’s special.”
“…My parents still have a house in South Bend, so I still have the Indiana roots. That didn’t make me any faster today, but it makes it more gratifying to win the pole.”
The pole was the 50th of Newman’s Sprint Cup career and made him the ninth driver in series history to reach that mark, joining Richard Petty (123 career poles), David Pearson (113), Jeff Gordon (72), Cale Yarborough (69), Darrell Waltrip (59), Bobby Allison (58), Mark Martin (56), and Bill Elliott (55).
But there’s still 400 miles to contend with tomorrow, and Newman is expecting to see track position remain the most important element at Indy even with the quickness of the new Generation 6 cars.
“It’s always going to be a track position race,” Newman said. “The flatter the track is and the faster we go, as far as the aerodynamics and the way the drafting works, you really can’t make up in the draft what you lose in downforce in the corners.
“The track position is going to be key and because we’re faster than we’ve ever have [been], I say it’s gonna be more important than it ever has been.”