The front row of Newman and Johnson is followed by Row 2 which includes Carl Edwards, who ran a fast lap of 187.157 mph in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Denny Hamlin’s 187.122 in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“I was just really proud of our guys,” Edwards said. “We brought a brand new car here that everyone worked very hard on, and we were not very good at the beginning of practice. Everybody worked really hard to get the car right, and we had a great 1 and 2 and not so great at 3 and 4, and I thought I was going to be the most disappointed guy in the place until Ryan ran his lap, and I feel bad for Jimmie because I know.
“I felt really good. Second is the worst, you guys. It’s the worst to qualify second, and nobody wants anybody to go through what Jimmie just had to go through. We all don’t feel too bad for Jimmie, but that was pretty dramatic. I didn’t really expect that.”
Johnson’s drive for five at the Brickyard will begin on the outside of Row 1 which is a pretty good starting position for the driver that dominant last year’s race by leading 99 laps and taking his fourth checkered flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s cool to be in that position but it’s not something that motivates me,” Johnson said. “I’m much more in the moment and worried about this weekend’s race. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve won four and understand that, but how I got there and how those stats look next to Jeff Gordon’s, I don’t have a clue.”
Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, also has four Brickyard 400 wins and has been attempting to win a fifth at the Brickyard since he scored win No. 4 in 2004.
“Of course the competitive spirit in me wants to do it better,” Johnson said of being tied with Gordon. “It would be foolish to say otherwise. But it’s not a motivating factor for me. It’s really ‑ we go week to week, and when you’re in the sport 12 or 13 years, you learn how to just, good or bad, what happened the week prior, it just has to go away, and you know up to a new set of challenges and go to work and see what you can do.”
Stewart qualified fifth in his No. 14 Chevrolet with a lap at 186.827 mph as he attempts to win the Brickyard for the third time in his career. But he was also beaming over the fact one of his drivers will start on the pole.
“This was a pretty good lap for us,” Stewart said. “We didn’t know how much the track was going lose grip with the sun in the middle of day. We made adjustments between the Happy Hour session and qualifying, and I am really happy with it. I feel like we have a car we can race with tomorrow. So far, so good. I am really, really happy with the changes that Steve Addington (crew chief) and our guys made between Happy Hour and qualifying. It gives us a good idea what we need to do for the race because that is exactly what we working on during practice. I think we have a pretty good shot at this thing tomorrow. There are about 10 really good cars right now in the field. I feel like we are right there in the hunt. We just have to put the whole day together tomorrow.
“This is one of those tracks where track position is important, but it’s not absolutely everything. You have got to have a car you can race with. If you can get it to qualify well normally it will race well too. Just having a car that is balanced is the biggest thing.”
But this day belonged to Newman, who was able to share the one of the biggest moments of his career with his team owner who made the decision to replace him next season.
“No hard feelings,” Newman said. “They made a move, and that move makes me move, and there’s no hard feelings. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Obviously this is a good step in publicity for me on the positive side, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. Today is over, and we’ve got to focus on getting our Quicken Loans Chevrolet fast for tomorrow and still making the Chase.
“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. But just really look forward to tomorrow. We’ve proven today that we have a fast race car, and we just need to go out and put together 400 miles, and that’s much easier said than done.”
It was also Newman’s first pole since 2011, which is odd considering he is considered one of the best qualifiers in NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“Oh, it’s been bothering me for a long time,” Newman admitted. “It bothered me really bad to not be in the Sprint Unlimited this year because I feel like I’m a driver that can still hit his marks each and every lap and put it all together, and we didn’t win a pole last year. We were close at times, but it’s going to be special for me to get back in that race and I know that I earned it, and I earned it at a special place.
Mike Bliss and Scott Speed failed to qualify.