On a day in which the talk center on knocking Jimmie Johnson off his ivory tower, it was ‘Rocket Man’ Ryan Newman that stole the spotlight for a day, earning his second pole of 2009, third at Martinsville and forty-fifth of his career. With a lap of 19.563 seconds at a speed of 96.795 mph, Neman bumped Jeff Gordon from the top-spot to put the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet P1.
“It’s the place to be no doubt and it’s the place to finish, obviously it’s what we want,” Newman said after his pole run. “Tony Gibson and the guys did a great job with this car. It hasn’t actually been run since our race here in the spring. So it’s nice to get it back out, they’ve shined it up a little bit. Bottom line is it was a really good lap. It helped to go out a little later and to see Mark (Martin) and Jeff (Gordon)and see what the track had in it and to watch them and see where there might be some gains to be made. Kind of just ran my lap and it’s equally important here to charge a corner and not over charge a corner and I just got everything I could.”
Earning his eighth front row start of 2009, Jeff Gordon went out early and held the top-spot for much of the session until Newman knocked him back to second. Piloting the No. 24 Dupont/NationalGuard.com Chevrolet, Gordon posted a lap of 19.619 seconds at a speed of 96.519 mph.
Martin Truex Jr. just missed out of Gordon’s time when he drove his No. 1 Vasoline MEN Body Lotion Chevrolet around the Martinsville Speedway at a time of 19.621 seconds at a speed of 96.509 mph – just 0.002 seconds off Gordon’s lap. Sporting his Philadelphia Phillies hat, Truex was pleased with his eighth top-5 starting spot of the year.
“We had a good practice today,” Truex Jr. said despite having a miss in the engine early in the session. “We had a good productive fifty minutes or so. We worked in race trim most of the day and did one qualifying run there at the end and it wasn’t really good so we just kind of took a shot in the dark and in qualifying it worked good.”
Chase contender Mark Martin was fourth-fastest in the day’s qualifying session, followed by David Reutimann in fifth. Non-Chasers rounded out the rest of the top-10 with Casey Mears, Joey Logano, Bobby Labonte, Reed Sorenson and Kevin Harvick.
Come Sunday the twelve Chase drivers will be scattered throughout the 43-car field. Tony Stewart will roll off thirteenth, points leader Jimmie Johnson was fifteenth fastest, followed by Denny Hamlin in seventeenth and Greg Biffle in twentieth. Outside the top-20, Juan Pablo Montoya was twenty-first fastest, Brian Vickers was twenty-fourth, Kasey Kahne was twenty-sixth and Carl Edwards was twenty-ninth fastest. Kurt Busch fared the worst of the Chase drivers, posting a time only good enough for thirty-seventh.
Josh Wise was the only driver that failed to make the race. It was Wise’s first attempt at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.