Newman has record run in Food City qualifying

By Jeff Birchfield

STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   BRISTOL -- Ryan Newman continued to be the fastest of the Winston Cup stars Friday afternoon, smashing Bristol Motor Speedway's track record in capturing the pole for today's Food City 500.
   "That was a pretty good lap," said the driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge. "I was just hanging on. I didn't expect it to be that fast, but I knew we were going to be pretty good."
   Newman became the first driver in the history of the .533-mile speedway to turn a qualifying lap of under 15 seconds in a stock car. The second-year driver, who led the series with seven poles in his rookie season, scored his second pole of the season, following a fast runs at Atlanta.
   "To pull out a 14.90 is pretty amazing," said Newman about a lap of 128.709 mph, close to two miles per hour faster than the old mark set last year by Jeff Gordon. "I was so surprised. That's the most amazed I've ever been after qualifying. The car stuck like you wouldn't believe and I put the pedal to it. It was just a good team effort.
   A former USAC Champion, who hails from South Bend, Ind., Newman knocked another USAC alum Gordon off the top spot. Gordon's time in his No. 24 Dupont Chevy, however, remained good enough to grab the outside pole.
   "That was an unbelievable lap that Ryan put out there," said Gordon, who won the pole for both races at BMS last year. "Overall, I was extremely happy with the car. I don't see how we could have gone fast enough to beat Ryan.
   "The car was balanced and fast. It was good as any car that I've ever had here. The car did everything that I wanted it to do. When I heard my lap time, I was like good lap, but I thought someone would beat it. I just didn't expect them to beat it by two-tenths (of a second)."
   Third place was the surprise of the day as Ken Schrader, like Gordon and Newman a former USAC titleholder, took the No. 49 Dodge and placed it among the fast cars.
   "We've been good since we got here," said Schrader, himself a 23-time pole winner in the Winston Cup Series. "We needed a good effort more than we needed the pole. I might have left a little out there, but I didn't leave the pole out there. I sure didn't expect Ryan to do that."
   Dodge was the dominant brand in time trails as five of the top seven qualifiers were driving Intrepids. They included Newman's teammate Rusty Wallace, a seven-time BMS pole winner, in fourth, 1988 Food City 500 race winner Bill Elliott in fifth and Jimmy Spencer, winner of the last Busch Series race at BMS, in seventh.
   Besides Gordon, the other driver to break the Dodge stranglehold on the scoreboard was Mike Skinner, who put his No. 4 Kodak Pontiac in the sixth starting spot.
   "Our Pontiac did a good job for us," said Skinner, who posted his first top 20 start in 2003. "It stuck like glue through both ends of the race track. The motor started skipping. It just went flat until it got to the start-finish line and then it took off. It did it both laps. But, this Pontiac was on time through the corners."
   There was another surprise in qualifying for the Channellock 250 Busch Series race when 1994 tour champion David Green set a new track record in the No. 37 Timber Wolf Pontiac and knocked favorite Jason Keller off the pole.
   Green's new record time of 126.495 mph bettered the old mark of 126.270 mph set last season by Scott Riggs. For Green it was his 21st career Busch Series pole and the second this season, following a first place run last month at Rockingham. He also won the pole for this event in 1995, then called the Moore's Snacks 250.
   The story of the day, however, was Newman's lightning fast lap. He will start today's race from the number one spot with the green flag scheduled for 1:15 p.m.