For the first time this season we find the Rocket Man Ryan Newman in a familiar place as in years past, on the pole for the Lennox Industrial Tools 301.Ã‚Â With a track-record run at 135.232 mph (28.165 seconds) Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Newman claimed his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his fifth at New Hampshire and the 47th of his career.Ã‚Â Although he has placed well so far this season with 5 tops 5’s and 8 top ten’s Newman has struggled with being there at the front for the checkered flag. Newman edged out his teammate and team owner Tony Stewart who completed his lap around the 1.058-mile distance in 28.200 seconds (135.064 mph), and led theÃ‚Â 12 drivers who broke the track record of 133.572 mph (28.515 seconds) set last year by Brad Kesolowski.
This race will also be the first time that the Stewart Haas teammates start together on the front row.
“Reutimann clipped off a lap that I didn’t think could be beat,” Newman said. “But I’m just proud of the U.S. Army team and everybody at Stewart-Haas to get our first front row together, first of all, but for us to be the winning car and have a good start for the entire weekend.
“The car felt good in practice. The lap itself was nice and smooth. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but it was good enough, and if we can make that a little bit better for Sunday, we’ll be in really good shape.”
When asked if frustrations are getting to the Stewart Haas team Newman’s answer was straight to the point.
“Ultimately, we want to be first or second [in the races] in either order, so yeah, I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Newman said. “This is crunch time and this has usually been his time, but it hasn’t been this year. … That’s going to happen from time to time. Everything does cycle, but you don’t want to see that part of the cycle when it’s your teammate.”
Stewart, starting second, credited the tires that Goodyear brought to Loudon New Hampshire for the speeds that just kept on
coming as the track record just kept being broken throughout qualifying.
“It’s just a grippier tire,” Stewart said. “What we’ve fought here in the past is a tire that normally would chatter for two or three laps until it got some temperature in it and [got] some bite. This tire just seemed to take off better.
“Obviously, for qualifying, when you’ve only got two laps to do it, it’s faster because it takes off right away.”
Stewart’s thoughts on the frustrations his team has felt this year were a little more colorful and a lot less restrained.
“I am frustrated because I keep having to answer the question. … Are you happy when things aren’t going the way you like it to go? Makes you frustrated, doesn’t it? So yes, we’re frustrated.”
“Same as we did last week and the week before. We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re working on it.”
“It’s just business as usual for us,” Stewart said. “Try to get as many points as we can and hope we can get in on our merit of points, and not have to rely on the wild card.”
Tony did make it clear that he is still loving what he is doing, both as a driver and as an owner, but that he is looking forward to breaking his own winless season.
“I like what I’m doing. I enjoy it still,” Stewart said. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m still just as happy doing it as I was two years ago when I started doing this as a car owner and a driver.
“Nothing has changed from that side. Every week is a challenge. Every week is a different obstacle. You work hard to try to accomplish the goal each week. It hasn’t changed.”
David Reutimann (134.763 mph) had been holding his own out front until Newman’s run, is fresh of a second place finish last week in Kentucky, but still thinks it is a bit early for people to be saying that his 00 team is gaining momentum.
“We’re certainly, finally running like we’re supposed to, but I don’t know if you’d call it a roll,” Reutimann said. “But it’s certainly better than it has been. Just because you qualify up front doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay there, but it certainly does get your weekend off to a good start.”
Kurt Busch (134.340 mph) and Penske Racing teammate Keselowski (134.150 mph) round out the top 5.