INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Newman set a track record Saturday in winning the pole position for NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Newman, a native of South Bend, Ind., won the pole in dramatic fashion. He was the last of 45 drivers to make their qualifying attempt and he knocked off defending Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson to grab the first starting spot.
Newman turned a lap of 187.531 mph around the 2.5-mile speedway in his No. 39 Chevrolet, edging Johnson’s 187.438 mph and smashing the previous record of 186.293 mph set by Casey Mears nine years ago.
It was Newman’s 50th pole in the Cup series, and his propensity to qualify first has earned him the nickname “Rocket Man.”
Speeds were helped by unseasonably mild weather, with temperatures in the high-70s. It’s usually much hotter for Brickyard 400 qualifying, which creates a more slippery track that puts a lid on speeds.
Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup Series champion, also is a four-time winner of the Brickyard 400, including last year.
Carl Edwards qualified third, Denny Hamlin was fourth and Tony Stewart qualified fifth.
Stewart is co-owner of Newman’s team, Stewart-Haas Racing, whose drivers are Stewart, Newman and Danica Patrick.
The team recently announced it would not be able to keep Newman next year because veteran Kevin Harvick is joining the team and Stewart-Haas doesn’t have the resources to field four cars.
Among other notable drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 15th, Kyle Busch was 19th and Patrick qualified 33rd at 182.938 mph.