HAMPTON, Ga. – A fast race car put Tony Stewart in a better mood Friday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Six days after throwing his helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car, Stewart was laughing about losing his cool while promising the two were still friends. When he won the pole position for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500, his disposition got even better.
Stewart currently is 10th in Sprint Cup Series points, just 16 points ahead of losing an automatic berth in the upcoming Chase for the Championship. And after crashing with Kenseth last week, the pole couldn’t have come at a better time.
Teammate Ryan Newman ran earlier in the session. Unlike everyone else, he drove against the outside wall and finished 17th.
Newman walked to Stewart’s car to tell him there was a lot of traction in the outside lane.
“I wasn’t going to win the pole with the line I was thinking about, so I went with it, win, lose or draw,” Stewart said. “I have to give 100 percent credit to Ryan Newman. It’s awesome to have a teammate like that.
“I’ve never seen anyone in the 14 years I’ve been coming here seeing anyone run on the top.”
Stewart was clocked at 186.121 mph.
Points leader Greg Biffle was second at 185.648 mph, while Kyle Busch was third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Jeff Gordon was fifth.
Although Stewart has three championships and 47 victories, Friday’s run was just his 14th pole position.
“I’m definitely not known as a qualifier,” he said. “I don’t know why. I’m just not good at it. I think we spend more time in practice working on the balance of the car for the race.”
There is a logjam of drivers trying to win one of two wild card entries into the playoffs, and all are starting in the top 17. Busch and Gordon are in the top five, while Joey Logano (ninth), Marcos Ambrose (10th), Kasey Kahne (11th), Carl Edwards (12th) and Newman (17th) all can move closer to earning a spot with a victory on Sunday.
Moments after Stewart threw his helmet at Kenseth’s car last week, he vowed to “run over him” every chance he got. His tone, however, changed during the week.
“Yeah, we are fine,” he said. “It’s like we mentioned earlier in the week, we have too much to do the last 10 weeks to be worrying about each other. It’s just like we always said there are 43 people out there and they are not always going to agree on the track at the same time. The big thing is getting it done and over with now.”
Stewart said he hasn’t found the helmet yet. When he does, he plans to put it up for auction to benefit charity.
YOU MIGHT BE A REDNECK: Comedian Jeff Foxworthy was at the speedway Friday as the sponsor the Camping World Truck Series race, the Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200.
Foxworthy grew up 20 miles away in Hapeville and remains a big fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He said he still gets a lot of his material for this redneck jokes in the infield of NASCAR tracks.
“Sponsoring a race is a redneck’s dream,” he said. “I can cross it off my bucket list.”