Ryan Newman claimed pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase round at New Hampshire, following a rain-interrupted qualifying session.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver made it two for two on pole positions at the one-mile oval, where he won in July after setting the pace in qualifying. His sixth career pole at Loudon comes only four days after his teammate Tony Stewart won for the first time this season in a rain-delayed race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Newman had been fastest in practice earlier and thus had to run last in the order, which usually gives cooler track temperatures and slightly more grip in the afternoon. However, right before the last few cars completed their runs, rain made for an unusual turn of events.
Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya, fifth earlier in practice, was put on hold by officials before being given clearance to hit the track due to the rain picking up. When asked to go a first time he refused to do so, as there was drizzle that then led officials to send the jet dryers out. Nearly 50 minutes later, the track was declared dry but Montoya struggled for grip as the first car out and ranked way down in the leader board. Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson was next, but he aborted his run before taking the green flag, after having a feel for the conditions.
Officials took a further look at the track and nearly five minutes later Johnson went for his run, running among the top-10 fastest. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon ran even faster after him, as did Red Bull's Kasey Kahne, but then Newman put the hammer down with the fastest lap of the session, running only a few hundredths of a second off the track record he set earlier this year.
"It was a little dramatic," said Newman. "You've got to look at what the 48 [Johnson] did. It was raining when he went out, so it's a tough situation, it's a tough call. NASCAR, I thought, did a good job monitoring the situation with us drivers.
"This is the same car we had here in July. We've got a good starting spot but don't know what's going to happen tomorrow with the weather. I feel like we've got a good racecar, we just need to keep our nose clean."
Six out of the 12 Chase drivers took top 10 starting positions, Penske's Kurt Busch ended up fifth after holding on to provisional pole for a long time after struggling earlier in practice. Chase leader Kevin Harvick secured his best starting spot of the season with sixth ahead of Gordon and Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch, while Johnson ended up 10th.
Chicagoland winner Tony Stewart was 20th fastest, Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards struggled most of the day and was 23rd, while Denny Hamlin's bad streak continued after running slowest among the title contenders. He will start from row 14 on Sunday beside fellow Chaser Matt Kenseth.
JJ Yeley was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 32nd, while Steve Park and TJ Bell failed to make the field.
Two further practice sessions are scheduled for Saturday, although the weather forecasts show a high chance of rain in the morning.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.213s
2. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 28.263s + 0.050s
3. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 28.287s + 0.074s
4. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 28.300s + 0.087s
5. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 28.343s + 0.130s
6. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 28.349s + 0.136s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.390s + 0.177s
8. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.393s + 0.180s
9. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 28.393s + 0.180s
10. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 28.408s + 0.195s
11. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 28.412s + 0.199s
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 28.428s + 0.215s
13. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 28.462s + 0.249s
14. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.463s + 0.250s
15. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 28.468s + 0.255s
16. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 28.473s + 0.260s
17. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.476s + 0.263s
18. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 28.510s + 0.297s
19. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 28.515s + 0.302s
20. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.542s + 0.329s
21. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 28.561s + 0.348s
22. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 28.585s + 0.372s
23. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.594s + 0.381s
24. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.613s + 0.400s
25. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.658s + 0.445s
26. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 28.660s + 0.447s
27. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 28.710s + 0.497s
28. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.726s + 0.513s
29. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.730s + 0.517s
30. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 28.761s + 0.548s
31. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.804s + 0.591s
32. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 28.808s + 0.595s
33. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 28.844s + 0.631s
34. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 28.886s + 0.673s
35. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 28.899s + 0.686s
36. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 28.997s + 0.784s
37. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 29.010s + 0.797s
38. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 29.062s + 0.849s
39. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 29.112s + 0.899s
40. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 29.161s + 0.948s
41. Josh Wise Max Q Ford 29.175s + 0.962s
42. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 29.575s + 1.362s
43. Scott Speed Whitney Ford 29.230s + 1.017s
Did not qualify:
Steve Park Baldwin Chevrolet 29.664s + 1.451s
TJ Bell LTD Chevrolet 29.877s + 1.664s