Friday, March 21, 2008

Newman wins Phoenix pole

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Ryan Newman isn’t wasting any time trying to win back what he lost this week.

Newman, who was penalized 25 driver points for a violation found on his No. 12 Dodge following last weekend’s race at Texas, won the pole for Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (8:30 p.m., Fox).

The pole is Newman’s first this season and 43rd of his career, leaving him tied with Buck Baker for 10th on the all-time list. It is also the eighth straight season Newman has won at least one pole.

“You never make up points that you lost, but you can make the effort, obviously, to put yourself in position so those points didn’t matter and we’re trying to do that,” said Newman.

“We got caught off guard there at the end of the race last week but we’ll battle through it. We learned from our mistake. That’s behind us and more importantly we can think positive and move forward.”

The penalty dropped Newman, who won the season opening Daytona 500, from eighth to 10th in points, trailing leader Jeff Burton by 189 entering Saturday’s race.

After getting the season off to a strong start, Newman has struggled somewhat but believes his team is getting back on track.

“Obviously, our restrictor-plate program was strong at the start of the season. Our short-track program was off a little bit in Martinsville until we had a potentially winning car in Bristol and got caught up in a wreck,” Newman said.

“Points-wise, we need to make some improvements, but we’ve been a little bit quiet, but not because we haven’t been trying.”

Newman had to stave off a surprisingly strong qualifying run by Elliott Sadler, who will start second – his best qualifying effort of the year and only the third time in seven races he’ll start better than 25th.

“I know it’s just qualifying and not the race, but we needed this,” Sadler said. “We needed a good run today. We had such a bad week at Texas.”

Carl Edwards was third, Mark Martin fourth and Kasey Kahne, Sadler’s teammate at Gillett Evernham Motorsports, was fifth. Series points leader Jeff Burton will line up 39th.

Kyle Petty’s No. 45 Dodge will miss the race for the third consecutive weekend. He failed to qualify at Martinsville, driver Chad McCumbee couldn’t make the race in the car at Texas, and Petty failed again on Thursday.

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