Ryan Newman claimed his 47th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career pole position with a record-breaking lap in qualifying at Loudon, as his teammate Tony Stewart ensured Stewart Haas Racing's first front row sweep.
Newman was among the last drivers in the order after setting the third fastest time in morning practice, beaten only by Stewart and Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer.
While many took a second qualifying lap to extract the most out of their cars, Newman's first flying lap was enough to beat the benchmark set by Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann. Stewart came close to his teammate's lap immediately afterwards, while Bowyer, a two-time winner at the track, was unable to match their pace, ending up only 12th in the order.
Newman's laptime of 28.165 seconds at an average speed of 135.232 mph is a new record for the one-mile flat oval, while another 11 drivers were able to run under the previous mark set by Penske's Brad Keselowski last September. A new softer tire selected by Goodyear for this weekend's event helped times tumble.
"It's been such a long drought for me to win a pole but I'm just really excited for this weekend," said Newman after claiming his fifth career pole and his second of the week as he was also the fastest qualifier for a Modifieds event on Thursday.
"This has been a track that's been really good for me for firsts and I'm looking for that first win of the season again. It's extremely important here to start up front, it's a big track-position race, it's a relatively short race if you look at the mileage and the way the fuel stops work out. We've got a good start, we just need to have a good finish for the team. I want to get that victory on Sunday, that's what I'm thinking about."
Reutimann ended up third in the order while Penske's Kurt Busch was fourth fastest ahead of his teammate Keselowski, who stood on provisional pole for a while. Bowyer's team-mate Jeff Burton, Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya and RCR's Paul Menard rounded out a top 10 dominated by Chevrolet Impalas.
Points leader Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) qualified only 19th in the order, right behind RCR rival Kevin Harvick, while Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle was 20th on his first weekend with new crew chief Matt Puccia.
David Stremme was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 29th while Scott Riggs, Tony Raines and Dennis Setzer failed to make the field for Sunday's event, which kicks off the second half of the Cup season.
• After NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying, Penske Racing Dodge driver Brad Keselowski will start from pole, accompanied on the front row by Kevin Harvick. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Joey Logano and Kyle Busch qualified third and fifth, split by Aric Almirola. Current championship leader Elliott Sadler will start from 15th.