HAMPTON, Ga.—With the Chase imminent, Tony Stewart found speed at the right time, winning the pole for Sunday’s Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Covering the 1.54-mile distance in 29.787 seconds (186.121 mph), Stewart won his first Coors Light pole award of the season, his first at Atlanta and the 14th of his career. The 45th of 47 drivers to make a qualifying run, Stewart grabbed the top starting spot from series points leader Greg Biffle (185.648 mph), who felt he left a little speed on the racetrack.
Kyle Busch, seeking to strengthening his hold on the second wild card position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, qualified third at 185.493 mph. Matt Kenseth (185.319 mph) will start fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon (185.307 mph) who is 16 points behind Busch for the second wild card spot.
Stewart credited teammate Ryan Newman for his qualifying success. Newman qualified 17th but discovered grip at the top of the track and briefed Stewart on the fast way around before Stewart made his attempt
The advice paid off.
“I’m definitely not known as a qualifier, and I know I’ve got to give 100 percent of the credit to Ryan Newman,” said Stewart, the defending Cup champion. “He ran his second lap up there, and he made an effort to come down and help us there.
“I’m not sure, if we had run the line I was planning on running, that we would have been that fast. It’s awesome to have a teammate like that. He’s always thinking outside the box. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be on the pole.”
Biffle was ambivalent about his front-row starting position.
“I got down in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 and just hesitated to push the gas down, thought it was loose, sliding, and waited, waited and just eased it down,” Biffle said. “I thought, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to have to run a second lap,’ to make up for it, and I came by and they told me I was on the front row with an 86 (29.863 seconds).
“You wish you could do it over again, but it was a great lap, put us on the front row. It’s just funny how things happen… It gives me confidence we’ll have a good car for Sunday.”
Notes: Danica Patrick qualified 23rd for her fifth Cup start, 12 positions ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., her Nationwide Series car owner. . . . Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss failed to make the 43-car field.