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, a South Bend 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.”