Saturday, February 21, 2004

Newman wins pole again at 'The Rock'

The Associated Press

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Ryan Newman put himself in a familiar spot Friday - on the pole.

Newman, who led NASCAR's elite series with 11 poles last season, earned the top starting spot at North Carolina Speedway for the second consecutive race at the track with a lap of 156.475 mph. "It's been a long drought," he said sarcastically. "It feels good to be back."

Newman, in his third season, has proven to be a master of qualifying. In 82 career starts, he has 19 poles and three of them have come at "The Rock."

By taking the top spot for the Subway 400 on Sunday, he made up for a poor qualifying effort in the season-opening Daytona 500 last weekend that had crew chief Matt Borland wondering what happened.

"I was teasing Borland last week, and I said maybe if we just drove the car backward it would go faster," Newman said. "We didn't qualify well, so we looked forward to coming back here."

Newman led a strong Dodge qualifying effort, with six of the top 10 spots going to Intrepids. But if the Dodges are far superior, he wasn't saying. "I don't think they have an advantage, and I wouldn't tell you if we did," he said.

Jamie McMurray qualified second in a Dodge with a lap of 155.379 around the 1.017-mile oval, and rookie Kasey Kahne was third in an Intrepid. Rusty Wallace, Newman's teammate at Penske Racing South, qualified fourth.

Dale Jarrett is the defending race winner, coming from the ninth spot for his only victory of last season. He'll start in the ninth spot.

"Hopefully, we'll have a repeat performance," he said.

NASCAR nearly missed a full field of 43 for the Nextel Cup. Although 45 cars showed up for qualifying, Andy Belmont wrecked with Morgan Shepherd in practice and didn't have a backup car to try to make the race.

Shepherd's car also was damaged, preventing him from getting any practice in. NASCAR won't let a driver attempt to make the race without running at least one lap during practice.

That meant only 43 cars made qualifying attempts, and the back of the grid was rounded out with a bevy of field-fillers: Carl Long, Andy Hillenburg, Kirk Shelmerdine and Joe Ruttman.

Sunday's lineup: NEXTEL Subway 400

After Friday qualifying

At North Carolina Speedway

Lap length: 1.017 miles

(Car number in parentheses)

1. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 156.475 mph.
2. (42) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 155.379.
3. (9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 154.814.
4. (2) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 154.644.
5. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 154.318.
6. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 154.195.
7. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevy, 154.149.
8. (43) Jeff Green, Dodge, 154.117.
9. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 154.078.
10. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 154.026.
11. (18) Bobby Labonte, Chevy, 154.020.
12. (01) Joe Nemechek, Chevy, 153.987.
13. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 153.942.
14. (41) Casey Mears, Dodge, 153.942.
15. (77) Brendan Gaughan, Dodge, 153.748.
16. (0) Ward Burton, Chevy, 153.690.
17. (32) Ricky Craven, Chevy, 153.619.
18. (49) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 153.413.
19. (10) Scott Riggs, Chevy, 153.297.
20. (25) Brian Vickers, Chevy, 153.169.
21. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 153.015.
22. (21) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 152.983.
23. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 152.945.
24. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevy, 152.875.
25. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 152.798.
26. (4) Kevin Lepage, Chevy, 152.792.
27. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 152.633.
28. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 152.486.
29. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 152.480.
30. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 152.353.
31. (22) Scott Wimmer, Dodge, 152.290.
32. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevy, 152.220.
33. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevy, 152.119.
34. (31) Robby Gordon, Chevy, 152.024.
35. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevy, 151.722.
36. (30) Johnny Sauter, Chevy, 151.283.
37. (50) Derrike Cope, Dodge, 151.283.
38. (14) Larry Foyt, Dodge, 151.221.
39. (1) John Andretti, Chevy, provisional.
40. (09) Joe Ruttman, Dodge, provisional.
41. (72) Kirk Shelmerdine, Ford, attempts.
42. (46) Carl Long, Dodge, Time 148.739.
43. (80) Andy Hillenburg, Ford, Time 146.859.

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