LOUDON, N.H.—Before Friday’s qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Ryan Newman quipped that he would give 100 percent on both laps—a reference to the edict NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France announced last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
As it turned out, Newman wasn’t kidding. On his first circuit, he broke the track record Kasey Kahne had set earlier in the session. On the second lap, Newman broke the record he had set 28 seconds earlier.
To be exact, Newman toured the Magic Mile in 27.904 seconds (136.497 mph) to shatter the mark of 135.922 mph established by Brad Keselowski in July. Kahne (136.082 mph) and third-place qualifier Jeff Gordon (136.063 mph) also beat the previous record.
Kurt Busch qualified fourth at 135.868 mph, followed by Martin Truex Jr. at 135.636 mph, as Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers claimed the top four starting positions for Sunday’s Sylvania 300, the second event in the Chase.
Chase driver Joey Logano will start sixth and Paul Menard seventh. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, all competing for the Sprint Cup title, claimed the eighth through 10th starting positions, respectively.
“Everything about qualifying weighs in to having a better chance in the race, with the pit selection and with track position to start and, obviously, knowing you have a fast race car,” said Newman, who won his seventh Coors Light Pole award at the 1.058-mile speedway, a track he termed the “birthplace of track position,” where a strong qualifying effort is especially helpful.
“We’ll see what we can do with our Quicken Loans Chevrolet tomorrow in race trim. We’ve been in qualifying trim the entire day, so I’m pretty sure and pretty confident we can make it all pay off.”
The pole was Newman’s second of the season and the 51st of his career, ninth on the all-time list. A win Sunday wouldn’t be the first time Newman has converted a pole into a victory at New Hampshire. He won from the top starting spot during his 2002 rookie season and again in 2011.
Unlike Newman, whose first and second laps were both good for the pole, Gordon picked up speed considerably from his first lap to his second, but not by design.
“When I went into the run and took off from pit road, I was really going to try to get it done on the first lap,” said Gordon, who is making the most of his 11th-hour addition to the Chase after manipulation of the outcome of the final regular-season race at Richmond knocked him out of the 10-race playoff, unfairly, in NASCAR’s view.
“I came off Turn 4 (approaching the green flag) just wiggling and sliding, and I thought, ‘OK, maybe I can make up for it in (Turns) 1 and 2, and then off of 2 really bad, and at that point, it was just all about regrouping and trying to put a second lap together.”
Gordon succeeded beyond his expectations.
“I was shaking when I got out of the car,” Gordon said, “because that first lap was so hairy and on the edge that, the second lap, I had to really try to get the car to run really straight and not make any mistakes, but I knew we had a lot of ground to make up.
“When they said I was third, I was really excited, because I knew we certainly weren’t anywhere close to that on the first lap.
The remaining five Chase drivers filled the following positions on the grid: Jimmie Johnson 11th, Kyle Busch 12th, Clint Bowyer 16th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17th and Carl Edwards 26th. Edwards tagged the outside with the right rear of his car on his first lap, requiring the repair of cosmetic damage before Saturday’s practice.