Ryan Newman bests Jimmie Johnson for Brickyard pole

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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.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.