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Newman wins second Loudon pole of 2011
23 September 2011
Ryan Newman took pole position at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, repeating his achievement here in July in the race that he subsequently went on to win. He'll be hoping that the story repeats itself here for the second race of the 2011 Chase.
Newman set a time of 28.213s on the 1.058-mile oval, 0.050s ahead of Red Bull Racing's Kasey Kahne who will start alongside him on the front row for Sunday's Sylvania 300 Cup race.
Qualifying was suspended when light rain picked up with just five cars (Juan Montoya, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kahne and Newman) left to make their runs. Montoya was next up but refused to go out on the wet track even when officials threatened to drop him and move on to Johnson's qualifying run: "Send out the #48, if he's so brave," Montoya retorted, not that Johnson was much happier about the prospect than the Colombian.
But eventually after around 50 minutes delay the rain did stop - although a light mist persisted - and the jet dryers had taken their turn out on the speedway, so finally Montoya's hand was forced and he duly slumped to 31st position on the grid with a 28.804s.
"Our car was fast enough to sit on the pole," Montoya fumed. "It's a freaking joke."
Johnson aborted his own run when the rain picked up again, but he was then sent back out to set what turned out to the tenth fastest time - which Jimmie wasn't exactly wild about. "I've always wondered what would happen if the drivers didn't think the track was dry enough," said Johnson. "I learned a lot through this process today," he added wryly.
The track conditions were improving with each qualifier, although next man out Jeff Gordon conceded that "I still wouldn't have wanted to be Juan Pablo." But by the time it came to the last two drivers - Newman and Kahne - the track was now dry enough for them to manage to set the fastest laps of anybody in the whole session.
"It took a little bit more [time] for my tyres to fire up, as far as stick[ing], and that kind of scared me a little bit, but I ran the first lap just as I expected to," said Newman after his run. "It was a little dramatic ... It's a tough situation, it's a tough call."
That gave Newman and Kahne the front row positions that they would have had if qualifying had been rained off and grid slots decided by Friday practice times: however, this way sees Newman pick up a bonus point for earning the pole. It's Newman's 49th pole position in 360 starts, and he's won twice before at new Hampshire from pole position including the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 two months ago. Kasey Kahne's second position rewards him with his fifth front-row start of the year.
Kahne's RBR team mate Brian Vickers will start from third place - his best starting position of 2011 - and he will be sharing the second row of the grid with another non-Chase driver, Greg Biffle.
The next six positions feature five Chase contenders: Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch starting in positions five through eight, with Martin Truex Jr. the odd one out ahead of five time champion Jimmie Johnson in tenth. Those falling outside the top ten were Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th), Brad Keselowski (16th), Tony Stewart (20th), Carl Edwards (23rd), Matt Kenseth (27th) and Denny Hamlin (28th).
Steve Park and TJ Bell failed to qualify for the 43-car grid.
The Sylvania 300 is scheduled for 2pm local time (7pm BST) on Sunday. In the UK, races are shown on the satellite subscription channel Premium Sports TV. Showers are forecast in the area over the weekend and could affect the race.
There is no Nationwide Series race at Loudon this weekend. The Camping World Truck Series F.W. Webb 175 race runs on Saturday with the start due at 3pm local time.
Full qualifying and Friday practice times