Newman scores 10th pole

Ryan Newman won his 10th pole of the season on Friday, the first NASCAR Winston Cup racer to reach double-digits in the qualifying sector since Bill Elliott's ground-breaking 1985 campaign, in trials for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 race at Phoenix International Raceway

Newman scores 10th pole

Newman lapped the re-paved one-mile oval in 26.931sec (133.675mph), just enough better than rising freshman Brian Vickers, who will graduate to Cup with Hendrick Motorsports next season. Newman surpassed Vickers by just 0.007sec in what rounded out as an extremely close qualifying session.

Vickers fell out early with engine trouble at Atlanta, finishing last in his first Cup start. He said he's hoping for a full race Sunday.

"Hopefully we can finish it out this week and get some experience," the 20-year-old said. "It's very important to stay out there on the racetrack and get as much experience as possible."

He admitted, though, that his sniff of success Friday left him as disappointed, as puzzled, as everyone else is in the garage lately.

"I've seen how frustrated some of these other drivers get with Ryan Newman, and I've started to feel it too these past two weeks," Vickers said, observing Newman's record pole run last week at Atlanta. "I don't know what he's doing for qualifying, but we need to figure it out. He did a good job. It was just so close."

Hendrick team-mates Jimmie Johnson and the surging Jeff Gordon were third and fourth, with Johnson just 0.019 behind Newman and Gordon just 0.052 in the red.

Meanwhile, points leader Matt Kenseth continued to contract for Sunday salvage work, taking first provisional for the second week in a row, his car simply not making speed. Kenseth will start 37th Sunday and will not have the best of pit boxes.

"We just don't have the speed," said Kenseth, who took provisional for the fourth time in six weeks. "It's just like what we've done the last few weeks. Our car drives pretty good, but we just don't go anywhere.

Kenseth leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 258 marks with three races to go and would have to stumble badly to blow this one, although Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, Johnson, Gordon and even Newman still are mathematically in business. Kenseth must finish 21st or better in the final three events to clinch Jack Roush's first Cup championship.

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