BRISTOL, Tenn. - Ryan Newman lived up to his new nickname, "Rocketman."
He was too fast for the rest of the field and got his third pole of the season in Nextel Cup qualifying Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The top starting position for Sunday's Food City 500 was his 21st, in just his third full-time season. Newman, winless in five races this season, led the circuit last year with 11 poles and eight victories.
He ran a lap at 128.313 mph, just shy of his year-old track record of 128.709 on the high-banked, 0.533-mile oval.
"When you get around this place as fast as we did, it's certainly not that easy," Newman said. "You have to hit your marks and you have to do it at a really fast speed. It's easy to make a mistake."
Jeff Gordon, who has three poles and five wins here, ran a lap of 128.288 mph. The time difference between Newman's Dodge and Gordon's Chevrolet was just 0.003 seconds.
Four-time series champion Gordon, starting from the front row at Bristol for the fifth consecutive time, said it's impressive that Newman, 26, is the favorite in qualifying just about everywhere these days.
"He's the guy to beat and you want to knock him off so bad," Gordon said. "I think those guys are doing a great job utilizing their resources, and Ryan is doing a great job getting the most out of his car."
Greg Biffle was third at 128.176, followed by Newman's teammate and nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace at 128.074. Rookie Kasey Kahne, who has two poles this season, was fifth at 127.860.
OTHER NEWS: NASCAR confiscated cars driven by Jamie McMurray and Larry Foyt after an inspection found the rear windows too big. The cars will be taken to NASCAR's research and development facility in Concord, N.C., NASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo said. McMurray qualified sixth in a backup car; Foyt's team withdrew because his only backup car is set up for superspeedways. ... NASCAR fined Tim Brewer, crew chief on Kevin Lepage's No.4 Chevrolet, $5,000 for using an unapproved deck lid on the Morgan-McClure Motorsports car Sunday at Darlington.
BUSCH SERIES: Greg Biffle set a series track record in qualifying at Bristol, turning a lap of 127.132 mph. He took the pole for today's Sharpie Professional 250 driving a Ford, eclipsing the record of 126.495 set last March by David Green. Martin Truex Jr., driving a Chevrolet, was second and also surpassed the record at 126.679 mph.
Also, NASCAR said the National Stock Car Racing Commission turned down an appeal by Johnny Sauter, who lost 25 Busch points for cursing during a radio interview after the race in Las Vegas.
INDY RACING LEAGUE: Team Rahal hired Brazilian driver Vitor Meira to team with Buddy Rice and Roger Yasukawa in the Japan Indy 300, the third race on the IRL schedule, on April 17. It is a one-race deal.