Concord, NC – Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, led the two-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent in time trials Thursday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway by qualifying 16th for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Newman turned a lap of 28.413 seconds at 190.054 mph on the 1.5-mile oval.
“Given the significance of Memorial Day weekend, we obviously want to do well for our Army Strong Soldiers,” said Newman, who has eight top-10 finishes in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. “If we can get a victory, it would be the perfect way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It was a solid lap around a track I really like. We definitely improved from where we were in practice and the car felt a lot better. We were on the pole for a brief moment there, but I knew it really wouldn’t stick. There were too many good cars behind us. We’ll just go put it in race trim and get ready for Sunday.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, will start 21st after turning a lap of 28.485 seconds at 189.573 mph.
“It was OK,” said Stewart, who won at Charlotte in October 2003. “We’ve been fighting a little loose. We got better, but we’re still just trying to get that last little bit tightened up. From where we went out here, looking at the guys that went out around us, it’s a pretty decent lap.”
SHR driver Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, qualified 40th with a lap of 29.161 seconds at 185.179 mph.
“I was just a little loose,” said Patrick, who will make her first Sprint Cup start at Charlotte and just the third of her career when she takes the green for the Coca-Cola 600. “I was really loose getting up to speed and loose on the first timed lap. That is kind of where it’s at. I don’t know if maybe my line wasn’t perfect for those conditions or what I needed to do. It just definitely felt loose – looser than in practice. That is alright. Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, race strategist) said ‘Sorry we loosened you up.’ I said, ‘That’s fine. It’s not like I crashed.’ Good news is we are in the 600. We just have to regroup and go out there and do a good job on Sunday night.”
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, captured his first career Sprint Cup pole by posting a lap of 27.988 seconds at 192.940 mph. The last time the No. 43 car was on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 was in 1966 when the race was known as the World 600 and the iconic Richard Petty was at the wheel.
Almirola’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Marcos Ambrose, will start on the outside of row one as he timed in at 28.184 seconds at 191.598 mph. Jimmie Johnson was third at 28.217 seconds at 191.374, while Greg Biffle (28.234 seconds at 191.259 mph) and Clint Bowyer (28.243 seconds at 191.198 mph) rounded out the top five.
Forty-seven drivers attempted to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600. Those not making the cut in the 43-car field were Mike Bliss, David Reutimann, J.J. Yeley and Scott Riggs.
As far as manufacturers went, Ford took the top spot via Almirola’s pole run. Chevrolet was next best at the hands of Johnson, while Toyota was the third-fastest make thanks to Bowyer. Eleventh-quick A.J. Allmendinger (28.372 seconds at 190.328 mph) carried the flag for Dodge.
The Coca-Cola 600 gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with a pre-race show at 5:30 p.m.