The best came last on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Ryan Newman – the 45th and final qualifier of the day – threw down a lap at 187.531 miles per hour to snatch the Brickyard 400 pole away from defending race winner Jimmie Johnson.
“It’s the benefit of going out last – you get to see and watch, and see where guys can make and lose time,” Newman told ESPN. “I guess I did part of my homework, but the [team] definitely did their homework…I don’t know if we caught a cloud or anything. I don’t think it was anything to do with that, but it was a great effort today.”
Renowned in the past for his qualifying prowess, the South Bend, Indiana native had not won a Sprint Cup pole in almost two years. But his last-minute run enabled him to become the second Hoosier to take a pole at IMS this season, joining Indy 500 pole sitter and Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter.
Today’s crowd was appreciative of Newman’s efforts, cheering him as he climbed out of his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
“It’s special for me, for a lot of reasons,” Newman told ESPN. “Being home, being in Indiana and being at the Brickyard, and being so long not to win a pole – hopefully, we can turn it into a good day tomorrow.”
Johnson withstood 33 attempts to knock him off the top spot, but in the end, his lap of 187.438 miles per hour was only good enough for second on the grid. Still, it’s great starting position for tomorrow, which could see either him or Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon become the first five-time Brickyard 400 winner.
“You can’t count Ryan out,” said Johnson. “He put up a whale of a lap…Our race package should be good. We’ve been a little bit stronger in [qualifying] trim but we’ve got some things to apply to our race set-up and we’ll have a great day tomorrow.”
The second row will feature Carl Edwards (187.157), who will lead the Ford side from third tomorrow, and Denny Hamlin (187.122), who paced the Toyotas with the fourth-quickest run today. Newman’s boss, two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch will make up Row 3, followed by Kasey Kahne and former Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in Row 4, and Gordon and Marcos Ambrose in Row 5.