Stewart-Haas Racing had an interesting Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart were on opposite ends of the speed chart.
Newman won the pole for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race but Stewart, who is clinging to a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, posted the slowest speed in the qualifying session.
”It wasn’t a good day for (Stewart), obviously you saw that in qualifying,” Newman said. ”I think it’s just one of those deals where you spend a little time overnight regrouping.
”We don’t ever want to see the cars that far apart, whether it’s the set-up or the results because of a set-up change. But I’m happy that we’ve given the (Stewart) an opportunity to look at our notes. We always share information.”
Stewart certainly needs all the help he can get right now.
Although he’s 10th in the Sprint Cup standings, the two-time series champion is winless this season and could get knocked out of a spot in the Chase for the championship with a bad finish in any of the next three races.
Newman, meanwhile, is ranked seventh in points with a win this season.
”If we knew what the problem was, we would fix it,” said Stewart, who will start 42nd in the 43-car field Saturday night. ”It could turn around in a week; it may not turn around the rest of the year.”
Newman, meanwhile, turned a lap at 122.811 mph to win his second pole of the season and 48th of his career. He ranks 10th on the all-time pole-winners list.
His lap marked a frantic final few minutes of qualifying. Jeff Gordon bumped Jamie McMurray for the pole, then Newman bumped Gordon.
Newman then had to stand and watch late efforts from Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.
Kenseth put up a lap at 122.662 mph, then joined Newman on pit road to watch Edwards post a lap at 122.670 mph to qualify second, bumping Kenseth to third.
”That is all I had, so Ryan beat me. He did a good job,” said Edwards, who was fastest in Friday’s two practice sessions.
”I thought we were going to get the pole. Off turn four I was headed for the fence there and I wasn’t sure, I was kind of doing the odds in my head, like if I hit this thing, if I hit the wall with this, would we have time to fix it and how bad would I tear it up. I gave up just a little bit off four there and that was the smart thing to do.”
Gordon wound up fourth and was followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin.
McMurray dropped to sixth.
Paul Menard, who is chasing a wild-card spot in the 12-driver Chase field, qualified seventh and was followed by Brad Keselowski, who currently holds one of the two wild cards.
Joey Logano was ninth and five-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10. Busch has failed to finish the last two Cup races, which has dropped him from fourth to eighth in the standings.
Kyle Busch, who has won four of the last five Cup races at Bristol and five overall, qualified a distant 23rd.