Papa Smurf is going to be happy this weekend and it’s all thanks to “Rocket Ryan.”
With one of the loudest cheers for a pole this year, Ryan Newman stole the pole from Jimmie Johnson. Newman was the last car out and edged out Johnson by more than a tenth of a second to win his 50th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole. Newman’s speed of 187.531 mph at 47.992 seconds stunned the crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he will start up front for the 20th Annual Brickyard 400.
Newman hasn’t sat on the pole since Sept. 25, 2011 at Loudon. It’s been a long road since then and he may have to go see the new Smurf’s movie to thank them for being on his car this weekend. Not only is it the first time that Newman has been on the pole at the yard of bricks, but it’s his home track as well.
Newman’s lap time broke Casey Mears‘ 2004 track record of 186.293 mph. Newman’s lap stunned everyone considering he was only eighth in final practice this morning and just hasn’t qualified as well as he used to since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing a few years ago. Well, now he’s searching for a new job and there’s no better way to impress potential team owners and sponsors than with a good run at one of NASCAR’s most important tracks.
Johnson will start second after preparing to accept the Coors Light Pole Award for roughly 34 cars after he set the blistering pace. Carl Edwards came close to Johnson’s time as well, but will start third for the Brickyard 400. Newman’s boss, Tony Stewart, will start fifth and is definitely going to be a contender on Sunday. Stewart won the 2005 and 2007 Brickyard 400 with Joe Gibbs Racing, but hasn’t finished better than third since he started driving for his own team in 2009.
Jeff Gordon is always a pre-race favorite when NASCAR hits Indianapolis and will start ninth on Sunday. Gordon, Mark Martin and Jeff Burton are the only drivers to be in each of the 20 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will surely have an advantage for this year’s Brickyard 400.
Martin Truex Jr. messed up big time during his qualifying lap. Truex, who had a decent car throughout all of the practice session’s, will start 38th which is a surprise considering his success this year. Danica Patrick will make her Sprint Cup Series debut at the track which made her famous in the IZOD INDY Car Series. Patrick will start 33rd, but should move inside the top-25 mid-way through the event.
Mike Bliss missed the race as has Scott Speed who was likely going to start-and-park with his underfunded No. 95 Ford. Timmy Hill will make his Indianapolis Motor Speedway debut in the FasLane Racing car, even though he didn’t have the speed to make the race without a provisional.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.