Ryan Newman continued a big week for Stewart-Haas by claiming pole position for Saturday night's Irwin Tools Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, with a lap time of 15.624s on the 0.533-mile short oval.
"I felt our car was pretty good in race trim," said Newman, who recorded his 48th pole position in 356 starts. "Obviously, it worked good in qualifying trim," he added, before admitting: "it was a good lap but it didn't feel that fast, I will tell you that."
The team was coming off Thursday's news that Danica Patrick will be joining them in Cup competition in select races next year, but the post-Danica boost didn't rub off on team co-owner Tony Stewart who ended up on the back row of the grid with the slowest time of anyone in the session.
"You don't ever want to see the cars that far apart, whether it's the setups or results because of a setup change," said Newman, sharing the team's concern at Stewart's plight. "I'm happy that we've given the #14 the opportunity to look at our notes. We always share information, there's no question about that."
Newman's pole time was just 0.018s ahead of Carl Edwards, who had led both the practice sessions held earlier in the day.
"Ryan did a good job [but] we did everything right today," said Edwards. "I probably could have done a little better job coming to the green. To come off turn four that last time, coming to the white I was a little bit loose and I left my foot in it and almost hit the fence. I figured that was enough. Second place will be a good starting spot."
Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon will start from the second row of the grid, while current man-of-the-moment Brad Keselowski will line up in eighth place behind them.
"That was good," said Kenseth. "We were pretty good in qualifying trim. I wish I had a lap back - the times are so tight here that you always think you can do better. We pretty much got most of it, we were just a little loose."
Cup championship points leader Kyle Busch qualified in 23rd on one of his strongest tracks, just over an hour after he claimed pole for the Nationwide Series race.
JJ Yeley, TJ Bell and Jeff Green failed to qualify for the 43-car field. Bell was earlier involved in a bizarre pit lane accident in the crowded Bristol paddock area, which saw him back over a crewman who was working underneath Bell's Nationwide Series car at the time. The mechanic - car chief Cory Howe - suffered only minor injuries but was airlifted to a nearby medical facility for treatment.
"It's tough from inside the race car to see where your guys are at all times," Bell explained. "The code is when the hood goes down, be ready to start the engine. So they started the engine, they backed me out and I don't think the guy who backed me out had any idea he was under there as well."
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