Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet, led the two-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent in time trials Friday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta by qualifying fifth for Saturday night’s Kentucky 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Newman turned a lap of 29.944 seconds at 180.337 mph on the 1.5-mile oval.
“It was a good lap for our Tornados Chevrolet,” said Newman, who finished fourth in last year’s inaugural Kentucky 400. “It was a good improvement by the guys and we’ll see what we can do for making our adjustments for tomorrow night.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for SHR, will start 22nd after turning a lap of 30.371 seconds at 177.801 mph.
“The wind was pretty tricky,” said Stewart, who was the first driver to qualify after a heavy windstorm interrupted time trials. “At one end (of the track) you had the wind helping you and at the other end it was really working against us. The Office Depot/Mobil1 Chevy was definitely more of a handful than it was in practice.”
Jimmie Johnson captured his 26th career Sprint Cup pole and first in 60 races by posting a lap of 29.700 seconds at 181.818 mph. Johnson earned his last pole on Sept. 24, 2010 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Kyle Busch will start on the outside of row one as he timed in at 29.765 seconds at 181.421 mph. Denny Hamlin was third (29.810 seconds at 181.147 mph), while Kevin Harvick (29.939 seconds at 180.367 mph) and Newman rounded out the top five.
Forty-five drivers attempted to qualify for the Kentucky 400. Those not making the cut in the 43-car field were Mike Skinner and J.J. Yeley.
As far as manufacturers went, Chevrolet took the top spot via Johnson’s pole run. Toyota was next best at the hands of Busch, while Dodge was the third-fastest make thanks to eighth-quick Brad Keselowski (29.966 seconds at 180.204 mph). Eleventh-quick Greg Biffle (30.041 seconds at 179.754 mph) carried the flag for Ford.
The Kentucky 400 gets underway at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with a pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.