Newman Takes Pole Again

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – The Busch Series field may be smaller, but it’s also faster.

Young Ryan Newman – a part-time ARCA, Busch Series and Cup driver – broke the Busch Series qualifying record on Friday to win the pole for Saturday’s event Darlington Raceway.

Newman’s fast lap of 170.301 mph around the 1.367-mile egg-shaped oval was nearly three mph faster than the previous track record.

Todd Bodine, a two-time winner in the Busch Series this season, was second at 170.195, followed by Matt Kenseth, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Kevin Harvick, Randy LaJoie, Kenny Wallace, Kevin Lepage, Jamie McMurray and Elton Sawyer.

Newman and the others didn’t have as much competition as they’re used to Friday. Only 40 cars attempted to qualify for what is usually a 43-car field. Last September for the All Pro Bumper to Bumper 200, the last Busch race held at Darlington, there were 50 cars that attempted to make the field.

Jeff Green, the defending Busch Series champion, said there are several reasons for the small amount of cars that showed up Friday.

“There are a lot of teams out there that won’t come to a place like Darlington because there’s a bigger chance that they’re going to tear up some equipment,” said Green, who leads the Busch Series standings by five points over Greg Biffle and 18 points over Harvick. “Don’t get me wrong, I like this place and I want to get my first victory here this weekend, but Darlington’s got a history of cars being torn up. It’s just a fact of life here, there’s no way to get around it.”

Green qualified 13th Friday with a best lap of 168.175 mph.

Biffle, who qualified 18th with a lap of 167.625 mph, discovered that very fact Friday morning during practice, when he tore up his primary No. 60 Grainger Taurus and was forced to go to a backup car.

Mark Martin no longer participates in the Busch Series, and there are a lot of teams that are extremely grateful for that. Martin had won eight career Busch Series poles and eight Busch Series races at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” and had won the past three races held there.

He and Roush Racing teammate Jeff Burton, normally staples in Busch Series races at Darlington, were just two drivers who did not attempt to make the field for Saturday's race.

Among those who did make the race – and likely appreciative so few attempted to - were relative unknowns such as Ron Young, A.J. Frank, Brad Teague and Gus Wasson.

It was Newman’s second straight Busch Series pole, having earned the top position for last Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Buddy Baker’s been helping me out quite a bit, and he really helped me out with the line around this place,” said Newman, who tested at Darlington earlier this year but has never raced competitively here. “He wanted me to keep from making the same rookie mistakes as he made when he first came here.

“This place reminds me a lot of Winchester Speedway in Indiana. You have to really hit your marks here. I realized when I first came here this was going to be a track I definitely was going to enjoy. We’re going to do our best to stay out of trouble. I’ve watched a lot of races here and you can get in everybody’s messes easily. You just have to be cautious with other drivers.”

Ward Burton held the previous Busch Series qualifying record at Darlington of 167.676 mph, set in September of 1999.

Kenseth, a teammate to Burton and Martin in the Winston Cup Series, said he was ecstatic about his qualifying effort, considering it’s Darlington.

“Our lap was great, that’s the best qualifying effort we’ve ever had here,” Kenseth said. “To be in the Top 5 starting here, that’s great. I’m really looking forward to the race and hopefully we can get back to victory lane here.”

Kenseth won the spring race at Darlington in 1999.

Race Center

NASCAR Nationwide Series 250

@ Richmond Int'l Raceway
Friday, September 05, 2014 7:00 PM
Radio Start:
MRN, 7 p.m. (ET)
TV Start:
ESPN2, 7 p.m. (ET)

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