INDIANAPOLIS – The Rocket Man got his fuel back.
Ryan Newman snatched the pole away from Jimmie Johnson with a blistering lap of 187.531 mph around Indianapolis Motor Speedway to set a track record for NASCAR races at the Brickyard.
Newman was the last of the 45 drivers to make a qualifying attempt Saturday as Johnson’s No. 48 was atop the scoring tower for well over an hour with a lap of 187.438. Driver after driver had failed to knock Johnson from the pole, and the four-time Brickyard winner watched and waited to see if Newman could get the job done.
Newman, an Indiana native, pulled it off as Johnson smiled his approval.
“You can’t count Ryan out, and he put up a whale of a lap,” Johnson said.
Added team co-owner Tony Stewart, “They don’t call him ‘Rocket Man’ for no reason. He had an awesome lap.”
It’s the 50th pole for Newman, who established himself as an elite qualifier with six poles his rookie season. He set a NASCAR record with 11 poles in 2003, and won at least one pole a year for 11 seasons.
But he’d been in a drought of late, and Newman’s last pole was late in the 2011 season.
“I just am ecstatic. It’s awesome because it’s my 50th. It’s awesome because it’s Indy, and it’s a track record on top of that, so it’s like a double triple bonus,” Newman said.
The normally stoic Newman admitted he got emotional on the backstretch of his cool-down lap.
“It’s more special to me because it’s the Brickyard, because it’s Indy, because of the history of auto racing at this facility,” he said. “So many drivers who are my heroes, so many drivers I’ve admired, so many drivers that have worked so hard in their career to get to here on this day, to be the fastest one, that’s what’s the most special to me.”
The drought on poles had weighed on Newman over the last year.
NATIONWIDE SERIES: Kyle Busch had a commanding lead wiped out with one ill-timed caution, but snagged it back just in time to extend his dominant run in the Nationwide Series — and seal his latest win with a kiss.
Busch was the newest driver to kiss the bricks, leading 92 of 100 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He turned his baseball cap around, dropped to his hands and knees, and planted a big one on the bricks.
How’d they taste?
“Like bricks,” he said.
Busch, who won from the pole, even gave the bricks a celebratory slap.
Not bad after a late scare off a restart dropped him to third with six laps left and nearly turned Brian Scott into the surprise winner.
Busch fell back after some hard racing with Joey Logano that almost wiped out his near-flawless racing. But his No. 54 Toyota was the fastest car all day and he roared back to take the lead with three laps left. He won for the eighth time in 15 races this season.
Scott had a career-best second-place finish, Logano was third, and Brian Vickers finished fourth.
FORMULA ONE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position for the fourth time this season after setting the fastest time at the end of qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
The British driver seemed surprised when his team announced over the race radio that he had beaten three-time defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton clocked 1 minute, 19.388 seconds, just ahead of Vettel’s best lap of 1:19.426.
BEECH RIDGE: Newcastle’s Charlie Colby won the NASCAR Nite Pro Series 40-lap feature, earning his second victory of the season.
Tyler King of Livermore was second and Don Colpritt of Scarborough finished third.
Other feature winners were Scarborough’s Garrett Hall in the Sport Series, Scarborough’s Ed Connolly in Wildcat, and Buxton’s David Turner in Road Runners.