• Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
    Get the Blackhawks Championship Package
  • Give the Gift of SI
    Give the Gift of SI
Posted: Friday August 31, 2012 8:22PM ; Updated: Friday August 31, 2012 8:55PM

Stewart claims rare pole at Atlanta

Story Highlights

Tony Stewart won his first pole of 2012 with a lap of 186.121 mph in Atlanta

His last pole in Atlanta was in 2002 when he won the first of his three Cup titles

Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
Tony Stewart won the 14th pole of his career Friday night in Atlanta.
Tony Stewart won the 14th pole of his career Friday night in Atlanta.
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) -- On the advice of his teammate, Tony Stewart took the high road

He wound up with the pole for Sunday night's NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart turned a fast lap of 186.121 mph on Friday to take his first pole of the season and second of his career at the 1.54-mile tri-oval. He also was on the pole at Atlanta for the season finale in 2002, setting him up to clinch the first of his three Cup titles.

This time, Stewart hopes starting at the front helps him lock down his spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup title. He is the defending champion and, as a three-time winner this season, all but assured of at least a wild-card spot in the playoff. But if he drops below his current position, 10th, he'll lose nine bonus points that could be very valuable in the quest for a second straight title.

While never known as a strong qualifier - this was only his 14th career pole - Stewart took advantage of a timely tip from teammate Ryan Newman. The Rocket failed to tie the Atlanta record for most poles, settling for the 17th-fastest speed, but he came all the way down pit road to pass along what he thought was the best line to take on the sticky track.

Stay high, Newman said, instead of the customary line along the bottom that most drivers take because it's a bit shorter.

Turns out, he was right on the mark.

"That pole is 100 percent due to Ryan Newman," Stewart said. "I'm not sure if we'd have run the line I'd planned on running we'd have been that fast. It's awesome having a teammate like that. I don't ever remember being here and seeing anybody run up at the top like he did."

Coming off a helmet-throwing episode at Bristol last weekend, Stewart made peace with Matt Kenseth before the qualifying session, then showed he intends to be a force at the next-to-last race before the playoff begins.

"I'm definitely not known as a qualifier," Stewart said. "I want to run a good lap every time, but I know the bigger prize is on Sunday."

Greg Biffle (185.648) will start on the outside of the front row for the AdvoCare 500. Kyle Busch (185.493) and Kenseth (185.319) took spots on the second row.

Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, Stephen Leicht and Mike Bliss failed to make the 43-car field.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
SI.com
Hot Topics: NBA Draft Yasiel Puig NHL Playoffs NBA Playoffs Mark Cuban Jabari Parker
TM & © 2014 Time Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Read our privacy guidelines, your California privacy rights, and ad choices.
SI CoverRead All ArticlesBuy Cover Reprint