KASEY KAHNE UNSEATS 6-TIME AMS POLE WINNER RYAN NEWMAN AT ATLANTA, BILL LESTER IS THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN IN 20 YEARS TO QUALIFY FOR A NNCS RACE
Friday, March 17, 2006
HAMPTON, Ga (March 17, 2006) -- Ryan Newman is no longer the fastest man in NASCAR. Kasey Kahne wrested the title away from Newman Friday by clinching his first pole position at Atlanta Motor Speedway, circling the 1.54-mile quad-oval in 28.792 seconds (192.553 mph). That fast lap ended Newman's streak of six straight (and seven overall) pole positions at NASCAR's fastest track.
"I wish I could give up a couple tenths on a couple poles I've had here before to have three thousandths here tonight," said Newman, who will start next to Kahne for Sunday's Golden Corral 500 after turning a lap of 28.794 seconds (192.540 mph). "To be that close, it's disappointing, but I guess we'll just have to start a new streak now."
The pole position was the seventh of Kahne's career and his first at Atlanta.
"We're excited to win a pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway, one of the tracks you look forward to qualifying at every single year, and really happy to beat Ryan Newman, who is hard to beat here," Kahne said. "We barely did it."
Jeff Burton was third in his Cingular Wireless Chevrolet, 28. 858 seconds (191.914 mph).
"I'm qualifying challenged, especially at Atlanta," Burton said. "This place has really been a challenge for us. Doesn't mean we're gonna win the race and everything's great, but it's an accomplishment for us. It doesn't hurt."
Atlanta resident Bill Lester made history by qualifying 19th in his No. 23 Waste Management Dodge, becoming the first African-American driver to qualify for a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race since Willy T. Ribbs did it 20 years ago.
"It's overwhelming," Lester said. "I was hopeful my prayers and dreams would be answered, and they have been. I'm hoping this will open a lot of eyes and a few more doors in corporate America. I'm relieved. I just can't wait for Sunday."
Burton said he was happy for Lester but also hoped the day would come when a black driver making the race wouldn't be front-page news.
"I look forward to the day we're not having to talk about," Burton said. "That's when we know we're where we need to be, when it's not a story. But we've got to be here first."
Atlanta native Reed Sorenson qualified 15th for Sunday's Golden Corral 500 in his Target/Fujifilms Dodge. Sorenson competed in his first NEXTEL Cup race last fall at his hometown track, finishing 41st in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500.
A limited number of seats are still available for Saturday's Nicorette 300 Busch Series race and Sunday's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Tickets are available by calling 877-9-AMS-TIX (877-926-7849), 770-946-4211, by calling Ticketmaster at 404-249-6400.