Newman was clocked at 122.811 mph around the half-mile oval and will start out front Saturday night. It will be the 48th time in his Sprint Cup career that Newman has led the field to the green flag.
"It was a good lap, but it didn't feel that fast," Newman said. "We're in a good position right now, but we just need to make the best of it. We just need to keep our nose clean tomorrow night."
Edwards traveled around the circuit just .02 of a second slower than Newman. Matt Kenseth was third fastest, followed by Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.
Tony Stewart, who currently holds down the 10th and final automatic qualifying spot for the season-ending chase to the championship, will start next-to-last in the 43-car field.
Points leader Kyle Busch, who won last weekend in Michigan, will start 23rd. He has won four of the last five races at Bristol.