INDIANAPOLIS — On the final qualifying run of the day, the “Rocket Man” shot to the top of the field.
Ryan Newman, a South Bend native and a Purdue graduate, won the pole Saturday for the 20th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Brickyard.
Newman’s No. 39 Chevrolet set a new track record with a speed of 187.531 mph (47.992 seconds) and unseated four-time 400 winner Jimmie Johnson from atop the scoring pylon.
It’s Newman’s first pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it’s his 50th career pole position, becoming the ninth driver in NASCAR history to notch 50 poles.
“I just am ecstatic,” Newman said. “It’s awesome because it’s my 50th. It’s awesome because it’s Indy and it’s a track record on top of that, so it’s like a double [ or] triple bonus.”
To get pole No. 50 at historic IMS and receive a loud ovation in his home state was meaningful to Newman.
“I got emotional on the backstretch when they told me that,” Newman said. “It’s special to me because it’s Indiana, but it’s more special to me because it’s the Brickyard, because it’s Indy, because of the history of auto racing at this facility.
“So many drivers who are my heroes, so many drivers I’ve admired, so many drivers that have worked so hard in their career to get to here on this day, to be the fastest on, that’s what’s the most special to me.”
It was announced two weeks ago that Newman would not be returning to Stewart/Haas Racing next season. After not having won a pole in nearly two years, the Rocket Man’s fast lap serves as a good reminder for perspective team owners.
“They made a move and that move makes me move and there’s no hard feelings,” Newman said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Obviously, this is a good step in publicity for me on the positive side, so we’ll see what we can do [today].”
Nine total drivers broke Casey Mears’ previous track record of 186.293 mph (48.311 seconds) set back in 2004.
Johnson sat on the pole and watched 33 other drivers make a run at his 187.438 mph (48.016) lap before Newman knocked him to second.
The five-time Sprint Cup Champion was watching Newman’s run with one of the ESPN crews and was able to follow the lap tracker.
“I did miss Turn 2 a little bit on my turning point, and I felt like that I made that mistake and then the lap tracker showed that,” Johnson said. “But Ryan hit all four corners great and got it done.”
Carl Edwards will start third in his No. 99 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. Denny Hamiln, driver of the No. 11 Toyota, follows in fourth.
Hometown favorite and two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart will start fifth in his Chevrolet.
“We made adjustments between the Happy Hour session and qualifying, and I am really happy with it,” Stewart said. “I feel like we have a car we can race with [today].”
Four-time 400 winner Jeff Gordon is ninth.
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski will start 12th and rookie Danica Patrick will start 33rd.
Busch wins Indiana 250
It was a record-setting day for Kyle Busch in theNationwide Serie Indiana 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch set a new track record during qualifying with his 31st pole position in 259 series starts to become the series’ all-time record holder for poles.
This was Busch’s eighth win of the year and 59th of his career, most all-time. His win from the pole, the fifth of his career, broke a tie with Sam Ard at the top of the list.
But Busch had to pass Brian Scott with two laps remaining to record the win.
There were four cautions during the race, two in the final 20 laps each time for debris. The third erased a 2.5-second lead Busch had over Logano.
The final caution flag waved when Kasey Kahne went through the grass in turn two kicking up dirt onto the track, that set-up a final six-lap run to the checkers.
Brian Scott took the lead on the restart with an inside move entering turn one, chased by Busch.
Entering turn one with three laps remaining Busch got inside of Scott entering turn one and pulled away. Scott held on for second followed by Logano.
“This is awesome to win here with all the history,” Busch said. “On the last restart, I couldn’t get any grip in turn one and pushed up the track, which allowed the 2 car [Scott] to get underneath. I was able to get him loose and make the final pass.”
Scott said he thought he overdrove the car into the corners following the last restart.
Busch dominated most of the race only surrendering the lead during pit stops and then got an additional break with 35 laps remaining.
During the first caution period Busch, Matt Kenseth and Brian Scott elected not to stop for tires and fuel.
Busch was making his final stop for four tires and fuel on lap 65 when the caution flag waved for debris on the track.
With all the other lead-lap cars making their final stop, Busch went back to the top of the leaderboard.
He led 92 of 100 laps Saturday.
It turned out to be a bad day at IMS for Sam Hornish Jr., who entered the day as the points leader. Hornish was unable to finish the race when his Ford overheated on lap 64.
On the restart Busch pulled away from Joey Logano, who used a two-tire pit stop on lap 64 to gain track position.