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Newman ends pole drought at Dover

| Saturday, June 3, 2006

DOVER, Del. -- Ryan Newman thought a little rain might extend his pole drought.

Instead, the rain only delayed the wait and didn't keep Newman from putting himself on the pole for the first time this season with a lap of 154.633 mph Friday at Dover International Speedway.

Newman has a 36 career poles in 165 starts -- but none of them had come this year, breaking a 14-race streak without one. Rain interrupted the qualifying session and could have wiped out the lap had it continued. Newman browsed for old race car parts on eBay, worrying that his spot would not stand.

"That was my initial feeling," he said. "That was definitely a big gainer. Mother Nature did work out for us."

Jeremy Mayfield joins him on the front row for Sunday's race after a lap of 154.361. Jeff Gordon was third at 154.063, and Kurt Busch fourth was at 153.774.

"I thought we were going to be closer to Ryan, but Ryan put up a great number and a really fast lap," Gordon said.

Nextel Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson starts a season-worst 42nd, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Johnson lost control of his No. 48 Chevrolet as he finished his first qualifying lap, with the car spinning out of control. Remarkably, Johnson maintained his control, putting the car maybe only a foot away from the wall but never hitting it.

He may have torn up the grass, but his car remained intact.

"Somehow, someway, I kept it off the wall," Johnson said. "I'm shocked. My guys are happy. It's like we won the pole the way everybody was jumping and down. If I can't win the pole, at least I can put on a show."

After failing to qualify in last week's Coca-Cola 600 before buying his way in, Michael Waltrip made it yesterday and earned a spot on the 17th row with a lap of 150.710.

Matt Kenseth, in second place and 109 points behind Johnson for the points lead, starts 19th.

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