LOUDON, N.H. – This qualifying session certainly wasn't lacking in the drama department.
Ryan Newman overcame a pair of rain delays and controversy along pit road to win the pole Friday for this weekend's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Newman, who set the track record back in July, picked up his sixth career New Hampshire pole and was the last car to go out in the qualifying session for the second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I'm just really proud of the guys," Newman said. "This is the same car we had here in July... I don't think I've seen that much drama in qualifying in my 10 or 11 years here."
Red Bull Racing, which has already announced plans to close down at the end of the season, took the second and third spots. Kasey Kahne went out right before Newman and grabbed the second spot, while Brian Vickers was third. Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch will start fourth and fifth, respectively.
With 40 of 45 cars having recorded times, raindrops started falling. NASCAR held Juan Pablo Montoya on the end of pit road – the next car scheduled to head out following Paul Menard's run – to inspect the track for moisture.
Asked by officials if he wanted to go out, Montoya – guaranteed a Top-5 starting spot given his practice time – politely refused. After a lengthy delay, NASCAR deemed the track dry – and Montoya went out and qualified just 31st.
"I tried to go," Montoya said. "The track is still in bad shape. It's a friggen joke."
But Johnson followed Montoya, bringing his car to pit road almost as soon as he headed out. Another short delay commenced, after which Johnson went out and posted the 10th-fastest lap of the day.
"You just want a dry race track to run on is really all that it is," the five-time series champion Johnson said. "With what we have on the line with the Chase and championship, you just want prime conditions to go out in."
Before the first delay, Montoya offered to let one of the drivers behind him go first to test the track. In order to do that, NASCAR would have had to put Montoya on a five-minute clock.
NASCAR obviously didn't do that.
"Don't blame it on me," Montoya told his team over the radio during the delay. "I don't want to be the guinea pig and wreck the car because they think it's dry enough."
Newman, who set a track qualifying record here in July and went on to win the Lenox Industrial Tools 301, has three career New Hampshire wins.
"I guess they said Juan didn't want to go. His opinion is a bit biased," Vickers said of the delay. "I would like to have seen how we stacked up (in one concurrent session)."