Everything's coming up roses for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Five days after owner/driver Tony Stewart won the Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, his team-mate, Ryan Newman, ripped off a pole-winning run for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at the 1.5-mile track.

Newman turned a lap in 28.651 seconds (188.475 mph) Thursday to earn the top starting spot for the 600-miler, NASCAR's longest race. Kyle Busch (188.258 mph) made a concerted attempt to unseat Newman, who gave Stewart-Haas its first Sprint Cup pole, but fell just short after a slight mistake getting into turn three.

Newman now has 44 career poles and eight at Lowe's (the most among active drivers) but hasn't started from the top spot in a Cup race since April 12, 2008, at Phoenix. A prolific pole winner earlier in his career, Newman won his first pole in his third Cup start (at Lowe's) and has claimed the top starting spot for the 600 in every odd-numbered year since.

"After winning your first pole in your third start, and then going more than a year without winning one, you start to feel pole-deprived," Newman quipped. "I really wasn't totally satisfied with the lap - everybody says that - but obviously, you don't have to be when you have a fast racecar."

Coincidentally, the top three qualifiers for Sunday's race are the same three who went three-wide through the fourth corner on lap 93 of the Sprint All-Star Race, with Gordon wrecking and Busch and Newman each sustaining damage.

Jeff Gordon (188.193 mph) qualified third, one spot ahead of Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Mark Martin (188.166 mph). Jimmie Johnson (187.820 mph), who, like Gordon has five wins at Lowe's, will start fifth, followed by Kasey Kahne (187.493 mph) and Mike Bliss (187.422 mph), the fastest of the drivers required to qualify on speed.

Busch knew exactly where he came up short during his qualifying lap.

"I was trying to make sure that it wouldn't bust loose, because I pinched it so much getting into turn three that I didn't have a good arc off the corner," he said. "Typically, when you arc it in real nice, you can get a smooth arc through the centre and a straighter drive up off the corner. I was the exact opposite."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News


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