Rookie Ryan Newman wins NASCAR pole

July 12, 2002 at 8:40 PM
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JOLIET, Ill., July 12 (UPI) -- Rookie Ryan Newman, who has been close to victory but remains winless in his initial Winston Cup season, captured the pole Friday for Sunday's NASCAR Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The 24-year-old Newman put his Ford Taurus on the pole with a lap at 183.051 miles per hour around the 1 1/2-mile oval.

The Penske Racing driver fell a bit short of the track qualifying record of 183.713 mph set by Brett Bodine in last year's inaugural event. He also fell a bit short of properly explaining why he has not yet broken through for a victory.

"Like any other day and any other weekend, it's all about everything," Newman said in a way that would confuse Yogi Berra.

"There's not one specific thing that ever sticks out," he said. "There's a whole bunch of things, and they only stick out so far and you've got to pick the ones that are the most important and go with them.

"Whether it's Charlotte or Chicago or Talladega, it doesn't really matter. There's a certain equation that fits to make the performance ideal. And whoever gets closest to that either in qualifying or the race can be the fastest one."

Newman has been overshadowed by the exploits of fellow-rookie Jimmie Johnson, who has won twice and leads the rookie standings.

NASCAR's youth movement continued as 23-year-old Kurt Busch qualified second at 182.593 mph in another Ford.

"We prepared for it, we went for it, we just came up a bit shy," said the Roush Racing driver. "To end up second quick, it's a good effort for us."

In last year's race, many of the drivers were unable to find a second groove, which resulted in a single-file contest won by Kevin Harvick. This year, drivers are hopeful a second groove will open up, which would allow better racing.

"We'll see if a groove develops tomorrow, how our race strategy will play out and we'll see exactly what we'll do as far as the spring combination on the race car," Busch said.

Dodge driver Bill Elliott was third at 182.451 mph. The 46-year-old Elliott was on the pole until late in the session, when the two Ford drivers were able to surpass his speed.

Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin qualified fourth in a Dodge at 182.192 mph. Michael Waltrip was the fastest Chevrolet driver, rounding out the top five at 181.953 mph.

Eleven drivers failed to qualify on speed, including Johnson, who is third in the points standings. Johnson will start 37th after taking the first provisional.

Mark Martin, second in the points standings behind Marlin, qualified 13th.

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