Newman grabs pole

Ryan Newman, NASCAR's current king of speed, mapped out a stunning fast lap, leaving his rivals to watch and weep, in winning the pole on Thursday evening for Saturday night's UAW/GM 500 at Lowe's (Charlotte) Motor Speedway

Newman grabs pole

Newman retook the track qualifying record, tracking the 1.5mi tri-oval in 28.590sec (188.877mph), but that wasn't the half of it. He also beat second-place Kasey Kahne and third-place Casey Mears by more than two-tenths of a second (1.5mph) in leaving the field behind.

Kahne and Mears also surpassed the prior record, set in May by Jimmie Johnson at 28.869. Kahne ran 28.829 and Mears 28.834. Neither was close to Newman's pace, with the Rocket winning his sixth pole of the season convincingly. In fact, there was less space between fifth qualifier Elliott Sadler (28.996) and No. 17 Greg Biffle than there was between Newman and Kahne.

"The guy is in a different atmosphere than the rest of us," said Jeff Gordon, who qualified a disappointing 23rd. "He's really got some magic here at Charlotte. I really don't think anybody can touch that."

Newman has won twice this year, the latest at Dover last month. Yet, since the top 10 were re-ranked for the championship play-off in mid-September, Newman has suffered two failures - a broken engine at New Hampshire and a wreck-out at Kansas, dropping him into a deep hole. He is eighth in the standings, 232 behind leader Kurt Busch, who qualified 21st.

Newman can take heart from Johnson's effort here in May. Johnson won the pole with a track record, then led 334 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 on the way to a resounding victory and a burst of momentum that carried him to the points lead by mid-summer.

Stolid Newman, of course, isn't one to worry about past results. "We're going to keep our smiley face on and do the best we can," he said. "You have to forget what you can't fix."

Among the other play-off contenders, Sadler, in fourth place, came closest. Mark Martin, who earlier in the day announced that 2005 would be his last full season, qualified 11th, with Jeremy Mayfield 12th and Tony Stewart 14th. Fading Johnson is 18th, and fan fave Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 25th.

An astonishing 52 cars were turned out for the season's second and last home game. Two former champions needed provisionals (Dale Jarrett, Terry Labonte), and nine teams failed to make criteria.

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