Newman Takes NEXTEL Cup Pole at Charlotte; Johnson to Start Second

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. -- Ryan Newman dominates qualifying at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson dominates the races.

The pair will start on the front row in the Bank of America 500.

Newman captured his seventh career pole at the track when he knocked Johnson off the top spot with a speed of 189.394 mph in qualifying Thursday night.

Johnson, who has won five of the past 12 races at LMS, will start second after a lap of 188.990 for Saturday night's race, which marks the halfway point in the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

Bobby Labonte qualified third, followed by points leader Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.

Newman, who also won the pole for the May race at LMS, went out three drivers after Johnson's lap. With Johnson watching from pit road, Newman beat his speed on the first of two laps.

"It felt really good to knock off Jimmie," said Newman, who gave Johnson a friendly shove after climbing out his car. "I knew he was going to be tough after practice. It's nice to finally do it."

Newman's 42nd career pole followed a fifth-place finish Sunday at Talladega, some consolation after he failed to make the Chase.

"From my standpoint we've got a job to do on qualifying night and race day," said Newman, who hasn't won a race in more than two years. "Today it was all we had to do to be first. I don't look at it as doing something to get fame because we're not in the Chase."

Johnson, meanwhile, put himself in position to move back into the points lead. He dropped nine points behind Gordon after his teammate won at Talladega.

"I couldn't have gone any faster," Johnson said of his lap. "I think we'll be in good shape [Saturday]. It's probably one of the best qualifying spots we've had here in a while."

Matt Kenseth qualified seventh, followed by Kurt Busch, Casey Mears and Greg Biffle.

Bobby Labonte, driving a car with a pink color scheme to promote breast cancer awareness, held the pole before Johnson's run. It'll be Labonte's best starting position in more than a year.

Clint Bowyer, who enters the weekend third in the standings, 63 behind Gordon, qualified 25th.

Dale Jarrett and Sam Hornish Jr. were among six drivers who failed to make the 43-car field. Jarrett, who has used up his provisionals, had the 42nd fastest time. Hornish, the 2006 Indianapolis 500 champion, dropped to 0-for-4 in Nextel Cup qualifying attempts.

Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, Carl Long and Kirk Shelmerdine also failed to make the race.

Michael Waltrip, who captured the pole last week at Talladega, made the race with a speed of 186.761. Waltrip will start 19th.

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